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Rights defenders demand Pakistan to immediately criminalize practice of enforced disappearances in the country

Rights activists and families of the so-called “missing persons” rallied Tuesday in Islamabad to condemn the detentions as serious human rights violations

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ISLAMABAD, August 31, 2016: Rights defenders in Pakistan demand the Government to immediately criminalize the practice of enforced disappearances in the country which have caused years of agony to thousands of families across the nation.

Pakistani security forces have been battling extremist and militant groups since the country joined the U.S.-led war on terror in 2001. Critics allege the anti-terrorism operations have resulted in thousands of Pakistanis being detained by state security institutions, without their whereabouts and health conditions being made available to family members or attorneys.

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“In Pakistan, the practice of enforced disappearance has in recent years become a nationwide problem. … To date, not a single perpetrator has been held to account,” said the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to mark the International Day of the Disappeared.

Rights activists and families of the so-called “missing persons” rallied Tuesday in Islamabad to condemn the detentions as serious human rights violations.

Protesters demanded the Pakistan government immediately ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Without signing the document, they say, the country would not feel the pressure to criminalize the practice of illegal detentions by making laws to protect constitutional rights of Pakistani citizens.

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A rally organizer, Tahira Abdullah, said human rights defenders in Pakistan recognize the threat of terrorism and extremism facing the country.

Call for openness

“If you want to arrest someone whom you suspect of being a terrorist, an extremist, a militant, a jihadi, anything, arrest them,” Abdullah said. “But the laws of Pakistan, the constitution of Pakistan must be upheld and the case must be produced in an open court so that we know what the charges against them are.

“You can’t keep people disappeared and in internment camps like Guantanamo Bay. We have Pakistani Guantanamo Bays. This is unconstitutional, it is illegal and it must not be allowed to continue,” she said.

Pakistani security agencies have repeatedly denied they have forcibly sequestered, tortured and killed people in the name of counterterrorism.

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Despite the official denials, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acknowledged, and human rights groups have documented, evidence of the involvement of state institutions in the abuses in the name of counterterrorism.

A government-appointed inquiry commission has been investigating the complaints since March 2011.

Of the more than 3,500 cases it had received as of July this year, around 2,100 have been disposed of. The remaining nearly 1,400 include 500 cases the commission has received in the past seven months, according to officials.

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But critics question the independence and autonomy of the state panel, saying it does not disclose details about where those people were during the period they could not be traced by their families.

Rights activists also allege those who have returned to their families remain under pressure from security agencies not to discuss what happened to them. (VOA)

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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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USA, afghanistan, taliban
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)