Pakistan’s new government asked to probe missing persons case

July 23rd, 2008 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
Islamabad, July 23 (DPA) A leading international rights group urged the Pakistani government Wednesday to investigate the disappearance of hundreds of people allegedly at the hands of the country’s security agencies. Those people are held under counter-terrorism measures, justified by Pakistan as part of the US-led war on extremists, at various detention centres where they become difficult to trace, the London-based Amnesty International said in a report.

“As a first, immediate measure, the new government should ease the suffering of the relatives of the ‘disappeared’ by either releasing the detainees or transferring them to official places of detention,” said Sam Zarifi, the group’s Asia Pacific director.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally, denied the disappearances and claimed that the people in question had been recruited by jihadist groups.

However, the country’s judiciary led by independent-minded former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry started to probe the case and ordered the release of dozens of a total estimated 563 missing people.

The ruling was reportedly one of the reasons for Musharaff’s dismissal of more than 60 senior justices late last year.

Public resentment translated into a crushing defeat of Musharraf’s political allies in the Feb 18 elections, as the Pakistan Peoples Party of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto formed the coalition government.

The group urged the new government leaders to reinstate the judges and “act immediately to resolve all cases of enforced disappearance”.

The 50-page report presented the cases of some missing people, including Masood Janjua, a 45-year-old businessman seized by security forces in July 2005.

The government has not acknowledged his detention despite testimony from several former detainees who saw him in custody.

The rights group also called on other governments, particularly the US, to ensure that “they are not complicit in, contributing to or tolerating the practice of enforced disappearances”.

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