Finally, the state has bowed before the appeal of the reason. The Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan in meeting on the human rights at the PM Office (PMO) has decided to criminalise the kidnapping of the citizen. Once the bill is tabled and the law is passed, forceful disappearances will be a criminal offence under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Even an attempt to abduct a person illegally will be a criminal offence. A remedy in this regard was long overdue. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) deserves credit for taking such a gigantic and necessary step. However, of all people kudos to the Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari who worked hard to draft a bill in this regard.

However, it is also important to understand that merely including forceful disappearances as an offence finding a place in PPC will not be enough. After all, authorities often the times break the state law with impunity. The government will have to set precedents to discourage certain institutions who rely more on forceful abductions than any other option available to curtail dissent.

Although the government has taken a step in the right direction, the real challenge that the state will come across will be in the form of investigations and enforcement of the bill that will be incorporated in PPC shortly. If the constitution of the country cannot detain the law enforcement agencies, it is difficult to imagine PPC could discourage them. The government then needs to act proactively so that the bill does not remain an ineffective piece of paper.

Despite the challenges that the state will face in protecting people against forceful disappearances, it is an important decision with far-reaching consequences on the political stability of the country. The bill, if it finds a place in the PPC without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, will soothe the disgruntled populations of Balochistan and the Tribal regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) who have complained many a time that forceful disappearances have become a routine practice in those areas. Because of such inhumane practices, the political integrity of the country was in question.

There are visible cracks in the political as well as societal cohesion of the nation – both emanated from unconstitutional actions of forceful kidnappings of the citizens of Pakistan. Now is the time for those involved in forceful disappearances to understand that their actions have only further aggravated the whole situation. The ruling party has fulfilled a part of its duty to fill up those cracks. It can, however, overcome the challenges in this regard only if all political parties back the ruling party in this regard.