ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The government of Pakistan appears to be perturbed with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances that has completed its preliminary findings on human rights issues in Balochistan. The Group will share its conclusions and recommendations by Thursday, September 20.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has been looking at this issue for a long time now, however, the government has apparently not been supportive to the Supreme Court in providing information about persons who have disappeared. Even the Supreme Courts observed many times in sheer frustration that there was no government at all in Baluchistan, and the provincial government as well as federal government, were not serious about resolving this issue. The role of intelligence agencies picking up people and holding them in custody without informing their families has been reported in the international press.
As the task of the UN Working Group culminates, it has also decided to share information with media on the same day – Thursday afternoon – with its conclusions and recommendations. The UN Working Group is undertaking its first official visit to Pakistan from September 10-20, 2012, on the invitation of the Pakistan government.
The Working Group visited various parts of the country and met with State officials, both at the federal and provincial levels, as well as with representatives of civil society organizations, relatives of disappeared persons, and representatives of relevant UN agencies.
Represented by Olivier de Frouville, the Chair-Rapporteur, and by Osman El-Hajj, the Working Group is accompanied by members of the Secretariat of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan is of the view that the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances came to Pakistan at the invitation of the government. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is a Special Procedure of the UN Human Rights Council with a purely humanitarian mandate. It is neither a fact-finding nor an investigative mission. However, this Group visited Balochistan and KPK; had interviews with aggrieved families, political leaders, and journalists; and investigated the issues of people who disappeared like a proper investigation unit of any organization. Now the Group is expected to share its findings with national and international media and these two actions are contrary to expectations and statements of the government of Pakistan.
The UN Human Rights Council was established in 2006 replacing its predecessor, the UN Human Rights Commission. The establishment of the Human Rights Council was aimed at promoting human rights through cooperation and engagement in the member countries. Pakistan actively participated in the process of the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council and contributed towards improving its work during its membership from 2006 to 2011. Pakistan presented its first report under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the Human Rights Council in May 2008. The follow-up report under the second UPR cycle would be considered in October this year. The civil society organizations also prepare their report on the human rights situation during the UPR process. Accordingly, member states, in their reports, are expected to share details of steps taken for the promotion of human rights, visits of Special Procedures of the Council, and outline steps they plan to take in the future for this purpose.
In line with the commitments made during the consideration of its first Universal Period Review (UPR) report, the government has ratified a number of human rights instruments including International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention Against Torture; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography.
Early this year, in consultation with all the stakeholders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs obtained the approval of the Prime Minister to extend invitations to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and three Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council to visit Pakistan.
In pursuance to this invitation, the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Lawyers and Judges visited Pakistan in May. This was followed by the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Pillay, in June this year. She applauded the steps taken by the government for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. She also raised her voice against drone attacks in her report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva after the visit.
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is the second Special Procedure of the UN Human Rights Council, which is visiting the country on the invitation of the government. This step is in tandem with the global practice and norms for the promotion of human rights. In March this year, Justice Mr. Javed Iqbal, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, met the Working Group in Geneva.
In the recent past, the Working Group has undertaken visits to many countries, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. As of June 1, 2012, there are 91 countries who have extended a standing invitation to the UN thematic procedures for country visits.
Pakistan is a democratic, plural and open society. It has an independent judiciary, free media, and a robust civil society, and serves as vanguard for strengthening government’s efforts for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country. Indeed, independent judiciary, free media, and a vibrant civil society are doing a commendable job in highlighting the plight of missing persons. The country should be proud of its contribution as it works for the creation of an inclusive and harmonious society and a better future for its children.
The visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, including the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, are part of Pakistan’s ongoing engagement and cooperation with UN Human Rights machinery, demonstrating the country’s confidence and commitment to the promotion of human rights.