LAHORE - It is high time Pakistan take robust measures to end the illegal practice of enforced disappearance and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated on Wednesday marking International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

HRCP also staged a demo outside Lahore Press Club in which IA Rehman, Bushra Khaliq, Amir Mirza, Thaira Habib, Najaumddin and members of civil society were present.

HRCP co-director Najaumddin told The Nation there were no exact figures of enforced disappeared in the country. Some say there are in thousands while others say there are few hundred.

According to Pakistan’s Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED), there were 4,800 cases in 2011.

“Worrisome situation is missing person’s cases are still reported in 2017. And no culprit is behind the bars. The government’s commission gives only statistics every month which is not enough,” the HRCP official added.

Furthermore, in a statement, HRCP said: “International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, August 30, holds particular relevance to Pakistan since the phenomenon euphemistically called the missing persons issue is well entrenched in the country.

“There is a wide range in estimates of the overall number of cases. But even taking the most conservative estimates, a significant number of disappearances remain unresolved in the country.”

“The cases reported to the CIED also demonstrate that the incidence is truly nationwide, having spread to areas where it had not been reported from earlier, including Sindh, where political activists have largely been targeted. In Sindh, those campaigning against disappearance are now themselves becoming victims,” the statament further read. “In Punjab too, Zeenat Shahzadi, who raised her voice for disappearance victims became one herself. She remains missing two years after being picked up from near her house in Lahore in August 2015.

“HRCP regrets that the government of Pakistan has not implemented the recommendations made by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) after its visit to Pakistan in 2012 and subsequently as well.

“In its second Universal Periodic Review, the Government of Pakistan had accepted a recommendation (122.20) to specifically criminalize enforced disappearances. However, no concrete steps have been taken so far to make disappearances a distinct and autonomous crime.”

In the end, HRCP called upon the prime minister to take all necessary steps to implement all of the WGEID recommendations and the relevant recommendations accepted by Pakistan in its UPR. It also urged him to make enforced disappearance a distinct and autonomous crime under the criminal law.

“Order all state agencies to cooperate in the recovery of all missing persons and desist from abducting citizens, keeping them in secret detention or killing them and dumping their dead bodies.”

“Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Arrange payment of compensation for families of the missing persons that have been suffering for years,” the HRCP statement added.