Pakistan fails to come clean on secret detentions

Pakistan’s new civilian government has failed to provide information about hundreds of cases of people believed to be held secretly by the government. Hundreds of people have been detained as part of the so-called war on terror, or in response to internal opposition, for instance in Baluchistan.

Their failure comes despite several pledges to resolve the country’s crisis of enforced disappearances. The Chief Minister of Baluchistan pledged in April 2008 that resolving the cases of enforced Baluch disappearances would be a priority.  

In May 2008, Senator Babar Awan, the Secretary of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party Reconciliatory Committee on Baluchistan, announced the creation of a committee headed by Nawabzada Haji Lashkri to trace disappeared persons of Baluchistan as part of its efforts to address Baluch grievances.   

To date, the government has not revealed the findings of its investigations or any actions it has taken to resolve the Baluch enforced disappearance cases.

Amnesty International has called on the Pakistani government to act immediately on its commitment to trace hundreds of Baluch victims of enforced disappearances.   

“The United Nations should raise the issue of enforced disappearances in Pakistan at the 10th session of the Human Rights Council (Geneva, 2 – 27 March 2009) to follow up on Pakistan’s previous pledges to begin to resolve the issue,” said Sam Zarifi, Director of Amnesty International’s Asia and the Pacific Programme.

According to press reports, on 14 February Interior Ministry Adviser Rehman Malik stated that the Baluchistan Chief Minister had given the government an “incomplete list of 800 ‘missing’ people”, of which 200 names on the list had been verified.   

A hitherto unknown separatist group, the Baluchistan Liberation United Front, on 2 February kidnapped John Solecki, head of the office of the UN High Commissioner of Refugees in Quetta.

The BLUF (not to be confused with the long established Baluchistan Liberation Front) claims that 6,000 Baluch activists have gone “missing”. The BLUF also claims that 141 Baluch women are among the disappeared. The group demanded their release in exchange for Solecki’s return. The Pakistani government has denied the allegations.

Amnesty International has condemned the kidnapping of John Solecki and called for his immediate and unconditional release and points out that hostage-taking is a crime under international law.