Islamabad: Dozens of people held a rally in Pakistan’s capital on Tuesday to demand the government release what they say are hundreds of people who have been “forcibly disappeared” by security agencies in recent years.
Marking international Human Rights Day, activists and families of the missing called on Pakistani Prime Minster Imran Khan to release all detainees being held without due process.
Pakistan’s government has repeatedly denied the allegations, claiming most of those who are missing went to neighbouring Afghanistan to join militant groups.
In an emotional speech in front of Parliament, Amina Masoud Janjua, who heads the Defence of Human Rights Pakistan group, said Khan needs to fulfill his campaign promise from last year, when he vowed to end the practice enforced disappearances after taking office.
Some at the rally held photos of relatives they say are detained. Two young girls carried handmade signs saying “I want my daddy back” in Urdu. Their father, Mohammad Usama Mirza, went missing in 2016, and like many other detainees he hasn’t been charged or presented before any court.
Janjua herself is the wife of an alleged detainee, Masood Ahmad Janjua, a businessman who went missing in 2005 in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Since then, she has been fighting a legal battle for his and other detainees’ release. Her husband’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Although Pakistani law prohibits detentions without court approval, security officials privately concede that intelligence agencies are holding an unspecified number of suspects. The officials say the detentions are because of ties to militant groups. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media.