Missing Persons in Pakistan: All suspects except the military

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

A Pakistani court has summoned the heads of all past and current governments, including exiled and ill former military governor Pervez Musharraf, to explain why thousands of citizens "disappear" and are declared "missing" as part of the " state policy ".

However, the Islamabad High Court specifically excluded the military and its agencies. They too are widely accused of being responsible for the "disappearance" of some 5.000-8.000 people.

The court excluded the military from subpoenas, noting that "the involvement or even the perception of the involvement of the armed forces in acts that constitute a violation of the human rights and freedom of citizens weakens and undermines the rule of law".

Human rights associations, both in Pakistan and abroad, have not made this distinction and have indicated, directly or otherwise, the involvement of military and civilian intelligence agencies.

A directive from a court presided over by Judge Athar Minallah came on May 30, following allegations by former Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari of having been summoned by the powerful intelligence arm of the Pakistani army, theInter Services Intelligence (ISI), in relation to the action of his government on "missing" people.

Mazari, a security analyst, was in the government of Imran Khan, who was elected last month. Like Khan, he criticized the alleged role of the military in the continuing political turmoil.

In its observations, the court ordered that all "missing" people be found and presented before the court on June 17 last year; otherwise, the prime ministers and ministers of the interior, both past and present, will have to be sent to trial.

While Musharraf was named in the ordinance, the other former "leaders" - prime ministers and interior ministers, past and present - were excluded from the list.

"It is up to each head of the executive to refute the presumption and explain why they cannot be tried for the crime of high treason", said the judge in the order.

As for Musharraf, who has lived in Dubai for many years, he did not respond to several court summons, which ruled that: "Pervez Musharraf candidly admitted in his autobiography In the Line of Fire that 'enforced disappearances' were an undeclared policy of the state.".

The issue of the "disappearance" of large numbers of people began in 1999 and has escalated in the wake of 11/XNUMX and Pakistan's role in the US-led "war on terror" in Afghanistan.

Many detainees, exiles or suspected of ending up in US prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been placed on the "missing" or "missing" list and their families have been in turmoil for some time.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, as well as other courts, and Judge Minallah himself, have issued orders to demand that missing persons be recovered and returned to their families. Last year Minallah ordered families to be compensated by the incumbent government.

It is speculated that the ISI's new task is to bring about the formal "surrender" of Sharif (current Prime Minister of Pakistan) to the powerful leaders of the army, or it could be just a clever way to step aside and let them be. them to do the difficult work, through an interim government until elections are held. But it is more of a semantic question than of broader political implications. According to analysts, politics is the net loser in both situations.

The ISI's new role comes after the organization emerged from a dispute between Imran Khan and Bajwa that was widely perceived as one of the reasons the military went "neutral" and allowed Khan to be put to the vote. of the National Assembly. Khan wanted to keep Lieutenant General Faiz Hamid as the head of the ISI, while Bajwa wanted to move him. Bajwa prevailed, but Hamid remains a powerful ISI senior officer when Bajwa himself ends his term in November.

Pakistan may be the only one to allow a military intelligence agency to oversee the recruitment and appointment of civilian officials in key government positions. This formally extends the role of the military in the civilian sector and could mean that more officers are recruited to fill key civilian posts. As it stands, the military officially oversees matters such as relations with India, the Kashmir issue, relations with the United States, China and nuclear programs.

The parliamentary process that led him to face a no-confidence motion has now also turned against the government of Sbehbaz Sharif.

On 6 June, Sharif and his son Hamza, Prime Minister of Punjab Province, appeared in court to avoid arrest in a case on charges of financial irregularities and corruption. All this makes Islamabad's government extremely weak.