Forced disappearance in Pakistan

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Forced disappearance in Pakistan originated during the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf (1999 to 2008). The practice continued during subsequent governments. The term missing persons is sometimes used as a euphemism. According to Amina Masood Janjua, a human rights activist and chairperson of Defence of Human Rights Pakistan; a not for profit organization working against enforced disappearance there are more than 5,000 reported cases of enforced disappearance in Pakistan.

From 1999 to 2008[edit]

After the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, forced disappearance in Pakistan allegedly began during the rule of military dictator General Pervez Musharraf (1999 to 2008).[1] Pakistan went under immense terrorist activities. A large number of people became the victim of suicidal attacks. During Musharraf's tenure, during 'War on Terror', many people were suspected as terrorists and then taken away by Govt agencies.[2][3][4] Many of them were then handed over to the United States authorities to be imprisoned in the Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray.[4] After Musharaf resigned in August 2008, he was charged with various human rights violations.[2] According to Amina Masood Janjua, a human right's activist and chairperson of Defence of Human Rights Pakistan, a Nonprofit organization working against enforced disappearance there are more than 5000 reported cases of enforced disappearance in Pakistan, however, she asserts that the number of unreported cases is much higher. On the other hand, according to government, this figures is inflated.

From 2009 to present[edit]

According to Dawn newspaper report, in the first seven months of 2016, there were 510 reports of forced disappearance in Pakistan.[5] In 2011, a Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was formed to investigate the cases of forced disappearances. According to Amnesty International, the commission has so far received 3,000 cases of such disappearances.[6]

  • Zeenat Shahzadi: Zeenat Shahzadi, a 24-year-old female journalist who was investigating a disappearance case, was allegedly abducted by some armed personnel on 19 August 2015 and went missing.[6] As of 2017, she remained missing. Her disappearance caused her younger brother to commit suicide.[6]
  • Five online activists: In early January 2017, five social media activists – Salman Haider, Ahmad Waqass Goraya, Aasim Saeed, and Ahmad Raza Naseer – went missing from different parts of Pakistan.[7][8][9][10] Salman Haider was also a poet and academic.[8] Involvement of government agencies were suspected in those disappearances.[8][9] Later, one news report claimed that two of the five — Aasim Saeed and Salman Haider — were found.[10]

People who have at any point gone missing[edit]

Some have reported to have been handed over to the CIA and/or flown to Bagram, Afghanistan and later shipped off to Guantanamo Bay. Reports of forced abductions by the Pakistani state first began arising in 2001, in the aftermath of the United States invasion of Afghanistan and the commencement of the US-led War on Terror.[11] Many of the missing persons are activists associated with the Baloch nationalist and Sindhi nationalist movements.[11]


According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) around 5,228 Baloch have gone missing from 2001 to 2017.[12]

A senior Pakistani provincial security official claims that missing person figures are 'exaggerated', that 'in Balochistan, insurgents, immigrants who fled to Europe and even those who have been killed in military operations are declared as missing persons'.[12] Reports have shown that many people have fled the province to seek asylum in other countries because of the unrest caused by separatist militants.

Similarly separatist militants have also been found responsible for enforced disappearances cases. Separatist militants usually wear military uniform while carrying out their militant activities. Hence they often get mistaken as security officials.[13]


The cases of forced disappearances were criticized by human rights organizations and the media.[1] They have urged the government of Pakistan to probe these incidents.[1][9] In 2011, a Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was formed, but there was little progress in the investigation.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c ""We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years"". Human Rights Watch. 28 July 2011.
  2. ^ a b Shayne R. Burnham (28 September 2008). "Musharraf Faces Charges of Human Rights Violations". Impunity Watch.
  3. ^ "Pakistan". Freedom House. 2007.
  4. ^ a b Irene Khan (30 August 2008). "Where are the disappeared?". Dawn.
  5. ^ a b I. A. Rehman (25 August 2016). "Disappearances still a major issue". Dawn.
  6. ^ a b c "Pakistan: Where Is Zeenat Shahzadi?". Amnesty International. 30 August 2016.
  7. ^ Tareq Haddad (11 January 2017). "State crackdown on dissent feared as four secularist activists 'disappear' in Pakistan". International Business Times. IBTimes Co., Ltd.
  8. ^ a b c "Fears of online crackdown loom large after 'abduction' of 4 bloggers". Pakistan Today. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  9. ^ a b c Qasim Nauman (10 January 2017). "Rights Groups Ask Pakistan to Probe Disappearance of Activists". The Wall Street Journal.
  10. ^ a b "Second missing Pakistani blogger found, leaves country, says family". Al Arabia. 29 January 2017.
  11. ^ a b Denying the Undeniable: Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan. Amnesty International Publications. 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Thousands vanish without a trace in Pakistan's restive Balochistan". The National. 8 December 2018. Archived from the original on 8 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Pakistan militants execute 14 bus passengers". CNN. 18 April 2019. Militants wearing security force uniforms stopped two buses in southwest Pakistan on Thursday and killed 14 passengers after ordering them out of the vehicles, police said.

Further reading[edit]