Clip_30Many have been dismayed over the authorities ordering the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to cancel a discussion on Balochistan on April 9, 2015. It is unfortunate that this has happened on a democratic government’s watch.

“The cancellation order raises many questions: why should our students not be able to discuss and listen to an exchange of views regarding the situation in Balochistan? Would the event have been allowed if it focused on another region of the country? Would it have been okay if Mama Qadeer, the rights activist from Balochistan, was not among the speakers?

Such clearly counterproductive decision-making forces one to wonder about the quality of advice followed by the decision-makers. One would have thought that any opportunity for our students to better understand the complications and the struggle for justice in Balochistan would be something that all quarters would welcome. That certainly has not been the case. Surely, allowing such an exchange in an academic setting must be infinitely more desirable than the violent alternative that has been playing out in parts of Balochistan.

Such an exchange should be encouraged in academic environment that is expected to inculcate among young minds freedom of thought, speech and critical thinking. The inescapable conclusion is that those preventing the event from going ahead do not want young Pakistanis to have these attributes.

The faculty and students have protested over this decision; and have demanded that the reasons for cancelling the event must be made public forthwith. It must also be explained who in Pakistan decides which point of view should or should not be heard by the people. The most appropriate thing for the authorities to do in the circumstances would be to apologise for this uncalled for decision and assure LUMS that the government would not only welcome the holding of this event but would also facilitate it.

Clip_20Enforced disappearance has been a long, but a neglected history in Pakistan. It is derived from the laws of war where a person secretly arrest, detain, torture and disappear either by a State or armed force refusing to acknowledge whereabouts of his/her fate.

The force tries hard to decompose the dead body in such a way not to be ever being found.

The victims and their families demand justice, delivery and reparation, and prosecution against the perpetrators.

Enforced Disappearance

Enforced Disappearance (ED) has been a neglected history. Enforced Disappearance is denial of all access to the families and relatives, lawyers and courts and holds outside the protection of the law. The ED is a deprivation derived from the laws of war[1] where a person secretly abducted or involuntarily imprisoned either by a State or armed group and refuses to acknowledge whereabouts of his/her fate. The ED is a complex human rights violation[2] and a crime against humanity.

Protection to the disappeared persons addresses by the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) 2006 and Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons 1994[3].

The ICPPED defines “(a) detention or deprivation in whatever form, (b) refusal to acknowledge the deprivation to liberty, or the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, and (c) placing the disappeared person outside the protection of law and all recognized rights[4].”

The ED was first recognized as a grave human rights violations and abuses in Latin American Dirty Wars (1970s to 1980s) while some of the prisoners were kept in solitary confinement in custody by the security forces. The Enforced Disappearance then practices geographically in diverse countries including Spain, Guatemalan, Philippines, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, Syria, Pakistan and so forth.

The article 2 of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from the Enforced Disappearance states:

Enforced disappearance” is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction…by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons…followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty…whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law”[5].

At first, the Rome Statute of the ICC was reluctant to include Enforced Disappearance as a crime against humanity on par with murder, rape and torture[6], but accepted later when it understood the relative gravity of it. Pakistan is yet to ratify UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances[7] and Rome Statute of International Criminal Court.

The ‘Act of Disappearing a Person’ on Article 2.k of the CIEDP and TRC Act 2014 shall refer, “If any person arrested, detained, or taking control of by any other means … by a security personnel is not allowed to meet … as to where, how and in which state he/she is kept in after abducted or taken control of or deprived of his/her personal liberty in any other ways by any organization or organized or unorganized group during the armed conflict”.

The International Convention on the Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Convention against Torture (CAT) do not directly address the right to protection of enforced disappeared persons. However, a number of other rights try to indirectly deal it. They are:  the right to an effective domestic remedy (article 2.3) ICCPR, the right to life (article 6) ICCPR, the right to liberty and security of person (article 9) ICCPR, the right to freedom from torture (article 7) ICCPR, the right to detainee to be treated with full human dignity (article 10) ICCPR and right to recognition of a person before law (article 16) ICCPR; the right to freedom from torture (articles 2 and 16) CAT, the right and protection of children during armed conflict and prohibition of their recruitment into armed forces (article 38) CRC; and right to free from sexual violence (CEDAW).

History of Enforced Disappearance

In 71th BC, a charismatic Thracian Spartacus Gladiator[8] one of the freemen leaders of Third Servile War who had unsuccessfully battled against Roman Government had been arrested but disappeared since then[9].

In 834, Muhammad Qasim (Sunnis Islam), youngest uncle of the Muhammad led a rebellion against the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. He was defeated and detained but he was never seen in public again[10].

The Princes Edward V and Richard of England were disappeared by their uncle Richard III of England in 1483[11]. English socialist politician Victor Grayson had lastly seen entering into the Queen’s Hotel in September 1920, but he never returned[12]. Juliet Stuart Poyntz, founding member of the Communist Party of the USA while resigned from active political life, disappeared from 1937[13].

During Israeli invasion in Lebanon on July 4, 1982, four employees of the Iranian Embassy went missing from Beirut kidnapped by Christian militiamen[14]. Professor Sivasubramaniam Raveendranath, Vice Chancellor of the Eastern University of Sri Lanka was disappeared while he was on his way to attend a conference in Colombo in December 15, 2007[15].

Enforced Disappearance takes place by means excessive use of force during armed conflict on State of War in Afghanistan and Iraq. The disappearance or missing person take under control often tortures and illegally detains and finally killed either by the state security or non-state security forces, often after the interrogation. The dead body decomposes in such a way not to be ever being found or vanished forever. Adolf Hitler had not been a first State-Leader who practiced Enforced Disappearances to repress his political opponents. Stalin’s regime also followed the same method against his rivalries[16].

Some of the nations which practiced Enforced Disappearances are: Angola, Cote d’ Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa and Zimbabwe (Africa); Cambodia, East-Timor, India (Jammu-Kashmir), Indonesia, Pakistan, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam (Asia-Pacific), Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Russia (Europe); Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay (America); and Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait and Morocco (Middle East).

The post-conflict countries who tried to ensure justice mechanism in transitional period establish Disappearance Commissions, a Truth Commission. Some of the notables are Bolivian National Commission of Inquiry into the Forced Disappearances, Argentinean National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, South African Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, Sri Lankan Commissions of Inquiry into the Involuntary Removal or Disappearance of Persons, El Salvadorian Commission on the Truth, Jammu-Kashmir Enforced Disappearance Commission, Enforced Disappearance in Pakistan and Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This is prepared from the comprehensive forthcoming paper on Global Practices of Enforced Disappearances: Beyond Humanity. It basically reflects enforced disappearances in Pakistan extracting from the secondary literatures, participant observation and personal analyses.   

Commission to Investigate History of Enforced Disappearance

A Commission should be created to examine and document a complete truth of cause, nature and extent of disappearance incidents and committed crime against humanity; to investigate actual facts whereabouts the fate of victims and make them general public who were the subject of enforced disappearance; provide identity card and post-investigation information to the victims and their families; to assist in restoring the victims’ dignity testifying his/her belongings or recorded testimonies; to recommend reparations to the victims and their families and prosecution against the perpetrators who were involved in serious violations or abuses of human rights.

Serious violation of human rights means murder, abduction and hostage taking, disappearance of persons, causing mutilation of disablement, physical or mental torture, rape and sexual violence, looting, seizure, breaking or arson of private and public property, forceful eviction from house and land or displacement by any other means, any types of inhuman act committed against international human rights or humanitarian law or other crimes against humanity.

Political activists usually arrest and taken into custody by the security forces in the name to get more information about the leader, party and their future programs. The insurgent abduct person in the name of alleged state-informer or to retaliate. The virtual reality of enforced disappearance or abduction is as follows:

Because it was twilight, it was difficult to recognize newcomers. Someone knocked at the door and asked if the household head or targeted family member was at home. A voice from inside asked, “Who are you?” Someone replied, “It is us, please open the door. We have a little work with you.” Recognizing the voice, those inside open the door. The visitors enter the house and seize the family member of the household. Visitors ask him/her to go out with them. S/he normally resists for not to go with them fearing of possible torture, other cruel inhumane and degrading treatment or missing. The family members scream, begging them not to take him/her. The visitors assure them s/he will return the next day or soon after preliminary inquiries and take him/her outside. The arrested or abducted person never returns[17].

The Supreme Court of Pakistan should scrap granting amnesty to persons who have committed serious human rights violations and or abuses.  The Government including mainstream political parties should not demand discretionary power to grant amnesty to the perpetrators.

Less priority to this issue means affront to justice: no justice delivery to the victims and their families but granting amnesty to the victimizers. Such trends further strengthen and formalize culture of impunity in Pakistan.

Non delivery of justice means restriction to the fundamental human rights and humanitarian law: the right to equal justice delivery and treatment before and under law, freedom from torture and degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial and the right to legal counsel. Justice un-delivery to victims and their families creates mental shock, uncertainty, fear and long-term societal complexity. Each hour to day, enforced disappeared family suffers from sorrow, hope, un-recognition, silence and indignity in the community till their entire life-time.

Enforced disappearance has been a long, but neglected history in Pakistan. There is somepressure from the international community about this issue. 

[1] Finucane, Brian. 2010. “Enforced Disappearance as a Crime Under International Law: A Neglected Origin in the Laws of War”. Yale Journal of International Law. Vol. 35, p.171.

[2] Vermeulen, Marthe Lot. February 2012. “Enforced Disappearance:  Determining State Responsibility Under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance”. School of Human Rights Research Series, Volume 51. Utrecht University of School of Law.

[3] Department of International Law: Organization of American States. Online Available at (March 9, 2015)

[4] International Commission on Jurist. March 2009. Disappearance in Nepal: Addressing the Past, Securing the Future. Geneva. P. 8.

[5] International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforce Disappearance, Adopted on December 20, 2006 by General Assembly Resolution 61/177, UN Doc A/RES/61/177(2006).

[6] Hebel, Herman Von and Darryl Robinson. 1999. Crime without the Jurisdiction of Court. In International Criminal Court: The Making of the Rome Statute, Roy S. K. Lee (ed.).

[7] It is a very extensive Convention upon a wide range of different laws and regulations. The significances of it are: disappearance punishable under penal law, statutes of limitations, criminalize the offence as crime against humanity, the refusal to share information as a crime, absolute prohibition of secret detention, prohibition to use arguments as state secrecy or public security as reason for not informing, appropriation of children whose parents are disa

ppeared a crime, official and centralized registers of detainees, guarantee a non-derogable judicial recourse to determine the whereabouts and fate of a person, and relatives as being also victims of an enforced disappearance. International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances. Online available at Retrieved on November 7, 2012.

[8] Spartacus-Slave War had battled with Roman armies between 73-71 BC. Spartacus initiated a gladiator training school that finally formed the army against Rome oligarchy. The army team was comprised of runaway (left without permission) slaves and people with little to lose. The gladiator army defeated two Roman armies and attacked several cities. The Roman Government finally assigned Crassus and Pompey to crush to rebellion in which Spartacus had been killed and his army defeated. Roman armies crucified 6,000 prisoners. See Fields, Nic. July

  1. Spartacus and the Slave War 73-71 BC: A Gladiator Rebels against Rome (Illustrated by Steve Noon). Osprey Publishing Limited.

[9] Roman armies crucified 6,000 prisoners. See Ibid.

[10] Hussain, Jassim M. Undated. The Occultation of the Twelfth Imam Historical Background.  Department of Islamic Studies (University of Edinburgh).

[11] Who killed the Princes in the Tower? Online Available

in (March 19, 2015)

[12] Groves, Reginald. 1975. The Strange Case of Victor Grayson. Pluto Press.

[13] Tresca, Carlo. March 1938. Where is Juliet Stuart Poyntz. New York: The Modern Monthly.

[14] Lebanese Forces chief lashes out at Hezbollah over missing Iranians. Online Available in

[15] Farook, Shabnam. December 15, 2012. Missing and Forgotten: The Disappearance of an Academic. JDS.

[16] Vranckx, An. 2007. “A Long Road towards Universal Protection against Enforced Disappearance”. International Humanitarian Law. Online Available in (Accessed on March 14, 2015)

[17] Pathak, Bishnu. June 20, 2007. Missing Persons in Nepal. Situation Update 40. Kathmandu: Peace and Conflict Studies Center