Every two weeks in crowded sessions of the Supreme Court, judges listen to the pleadings of women demanding to know the whereabouts of their husbands and sons and brothers, who they believe are locked up in government jails and safe houses.Under pressure from the American government, the Pakistani military and intelligence services have been rounding up and holding incommunicado men who show signs of strong religious convictions, such as wearing full beards, without charging them under applicable law. The list of missing men remains at a fairly constant 400, as released detainees are replaced by new ones. Of the 60 released so far, many report having been tortured. The reports of course get little press, but that suits most of these men, who are too frightened to speak out. In addition, there may be thousands more men being secretly held for supporting the separatist movement in Baluchistan province. Despite the suspension of Chief Justice Chaudhry (right) back in March, perhaps due to his promise to continue hearings until all the detainees are freed, the remaining justices continue to hear the cases. Chaudhry’s challenge to General Musharraf seems to have weakened the General’s standing and strengthened a popular movement to return to civilian rule. We applaud the women and other human rights defenders who are publicly demonstrating and seeking judicial resolution of these cases, as well as the judges who continue to hear them.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The 400 Blows? Disappeared in Pakistan
In an item on Pakistan, the IHT reports: