Tuesday Jan 11, 2022
In a dramatic, and comical turn of events, the Ministry of Human Rights at a press conference on January 3, admitted that the bill for enforced disappearances has vanished into thin air after it was sent to the Senate for further review.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2021 had been passed by the National Assembly in late 2021 and was on its way to the upper house.
The ironic disappearance of the bill contrasts abnormally well with the disappearance of people but no one has answers to what actually transpired in either case.
Had the bill been enacted into law, it would have been a historic step in empowering democracy and elevating individual rights. Under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2021, enforced disappearances would have been criminalised and culprits could be prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code. If found guilty, a person could face five years behind bars and a hefty fine.
In addition to this, the bill could have also gone a long way in strengthening civilian supremacy within the country, which has been under question for years.
The issue of missing persons first gained prominence during the tenure of retired general Pervez Musharraf, largely due to protests in Balochistan.
According to Defense of Human Rights Pakistan — a non-profit organisation working against forced disappearances, more than 5,000 people are still missing in Pakistan. Despite annual protests in the capital and other cities of Pakistan, the federal government's lacklustre response to the issue has added to the dismay of families who have been yearning for answers regarding their loved ones.
With pressure mounting on both domestic and international fronts, the present regime finally decided to take action on the issue and in June 2021, the government introduced the Missing Persons Bill in the lower house which proposed criminalising enforced disappearances.
Addressing the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on January 3, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that the bill, regarding missing persons, had been passed by the relevant standing committee and the NA. "But it went missing after it was sent to the Senate."
Even if the government manages to find the bill, will those who went missing years ago also be found?
Khan is an associate producer at Geo News. He tweets @Saad10Official