THE families of missing people are caught in a nightmare that appears to have no end. Stonewalling, platitudes, empty a promises they have seen it all, and through several changes of government too. On Thursday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, speaking at a press conference in Quetta while on a visit to the provincial capital said: `The federal government is making all out efforts to resolve this issue and progress has been made to a great extent in this regard… . We are in a position to resolve this problem not in months and years but in days and weeks`. Mr Sanaullah, along with some federal cabinet members, also met families of Baloch missing persons who had been holding a protest in the city since 50 days and persuaded them to call off their sit-in. Has the state discovered a new resolve to address this burning issue, or are the interior minister`s words more of the same delaying tactics? History, and the de facto power structure in the country, suggests it is the latter.
Nevertheless, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah while hearing identical petitions seeking recovery of six missing persons has consistently called upon the government to acknowledge its duty to the citizens. When Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appeared at the latest hearing on Friday in response to Justice Minallah`s directive, the latter rightly pointed out that it was for the political leadership to resolve the issue. No chief executive, he contended, could say he is helpless. `If you are giving this excuse, this means there`s a state within a state.` There is nowhere for the government to hide. The ugly reality of enforced disappearances cannot simply be brushed under the carpet; the stain of this crime colours our reputation on the world stage and compromises our claims to being a civilised nation. That despite the issue having garnered so much negative press, people continue to be picked up without due process and spirited away leaving their families running from pillar to post to glean information of their whereabouts is unconscionable.
The Commission of Inquiry for Enforced Disappearances has proved almost wholly ineffective. While it has managed to trace the whereabouts of some of the missing, it has failed to hold to account a single perpetrator of this heinous crime which was the second part of its mandate. The civilian leadership must demonstrate the political will to take the bull by the horns.