Press Release, February 20
Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the government to immediately set up a high-powered and independent commission to deal with cases of enforced disappearance in Balochistan, release any people in unacknowledged custody of state agencies, and help secure the release of the UNHCR official, Mr John Solecki. In a statement issued here today the commission said:
The case of the abduction of the UNHCR official, Mr Solecki, and the demand by his abductors for the release of a large number of Balochistan citizens, including many women, continues to assume ever more serious dimensions. It is almost three weeks since Mr Solecki was abducted and every passing day increases apprehensions about his safety. At the same time the group that claims to be holding him has issued a list of 867 involuntarily disappeared people, including over a hundred women. A separate list of 138 women also has been released and it contains addresses of 76 women and the dates of their ‘arrest’. Whatever one may think of the authenticity of these lists it is obvious that the situation created by the claim of disappearance of so many women is far more serious than it had so far been assumed. It is the first time the people, at least outside Balochistan, have learnt of the enforced disappearance of Baloch women. Even if the list is partly correct it should make all politicians and civil society defenders of the oppressed hang their heads in shame.
In this situation the government cannot sit with folded hands. Every effort must be made to assuage the Baloch people’s feeling of outrage. This should have been a top priority issue even if Mr Solecki had not been abducted and should remain so after his case is solved. While attempts to secure Mr Solecki’s release through negotiations should continue the federal government must immediately set up a high powered and independent commission, with Balochistan adequately represented on it, to investigate the cases of all missing persons and secure the release of all those who are found in unathorised detention. The commission should have the power to summon any state employee and to grant appropriate relief. Even before the commission is formed it is necessary to order all state agencies to immediately disgorge anyone held in their custody or show cause for holding him/her. This is necessary to serve as proof of government’s earnestness in trying to heal the festering sore the issue has become.