Worries about UN mission

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Some are unfounded, some not quite so

When reports about the proposed visit of UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) appeared more than a month back in the media, there were signs of perturbation in the government circles. We are now told that the issue was debated between all stakeholders, a consensus reached and a summary prepared in the light of the discussion for the prime minister. It was let out that the visit of the WGEID was taking place at the invitation of Pakistan. Soon after the mission arrived on Sunday, however, a couple of parliamentarians expressed reservations. One of the agitated members termed the visit as “the first step leading towards the disintegration of the country”. A petition moved in the Supreme Court maintained that the commission’s arrival in Pakistan was “a conspiracy against the country”. Further that the commission visits the states where there was no independent judiciary or democracy but Pakistan is independent having all facilities to investigate its internal matters. The petitioner asked the apex court to issue an order to deny any cooperation with the commission and its members should be sent back immediately.
There is no doubt that Pakistan is a democratic country, with an independent judiciary, a robust media and an active civil society. Pakistan however was able to shed the military rule only after 2008 elections. The elected government has yet to come fully out of the shadow of the army. The security agencies which have had a long field day under Musharraf are strongly entrenched in Balochistan where there is still no end to enforced disappearances. The courts are free but attempts to stonewall the Supreme Court’s efforts for the recovery of the missing persons in Balochistan which it initiated in January indicate that much needs to be done to rein in the agencies. What has added to the apex court’s problems is the failure on the part of high government officials to fully cooperate with it.
Pakistan is a target of criticism in the international media on account of large scale enforced disappearances, terrorist attacks on minority Shias and the ongoing migration of Hindus. The country which is keen to participate fully in various UN bodies including its Human Rights Council cannot afford to paint itself into a corner. It will help Pakistan to be candid and upfront on the problems it faces. It should provide all possible help to the UN mission. By conceding that difficulties exist and convincing the mission that the government is making serious efforts to overcome them would improve the country’s image. Trying to create hurdles in the activities of the WGEID would strengthen the perception that Pakistan condones human rights violations.