A seminar entitled “Do Countries Sell Their Own People: A Discussion on Civil Liberties in the Age of War on Terror” was held on 17 April, 2008, at Embassy Lodges in Islamabad. The event presented the plight of the families of the victims of state-sponsored terrorism. The seminar was organized by Pakistan Professionals Forum, FASTRising and Pakistan Youth Alliance and attracted representation from a broad cross-section of general public including students, professionals, human rights activists and lawyers. Families of more than 60 missing persons were present.
The event started with the screening of the documentary “Missing in Pakistan”. This was followed by a speech from Pakistan Professionals Forum spokesperson. He condemned the government for terrorizing its own people and wondered how Sehba Musharraf should feel if her son, Bilal Musharraf, went missing. K. Asif, a student representative, condemned the intelligence outfits for their role in extra-judicial arrests and vowed complete support to the families of missing persons on behalf of the students of Islamabad. Next, Zafar Jan, a relative of a Baloch missing person, claimed that around 12,000 Balochis have been abducted. He lamented the fact that the media had no access to Balochistan. Shahid Kamal Khan, ex-president Mailsee Bar Association, said that armed forces have no legal right to intervene on its own in the affairs of the country until and unless requested by a civil government. Furthermore, armed forces or intelligence outfits have no right to detain or kill its own people. He vowed to register an FIR for murder against Pervez Musharraf.
This was followed by a talk by Mrs. Amina Janjua – the wife of Masood Janjua, missing since May 2005, anchorperson of the organization ‘Defence of Human Rights’ and spokesperson of the families of the missing persons. She related their struggle to win the release of their family members, through street demonstrations as well as their meetings with various politicians. She implored civil society activists, lawyers, professionals to continue supporting the cause of the missing persons. Furthermore, she expressed her gratitude to lawyers in the UK and the US as well as the chief counsel of missing persons, Shaukat Siddiqui, for their support.
Civil society activist, Ghazala Minallah, empathized with the unrelenting pain of the families of the missing persons and deplored the hypocrisy of world powers. She assured the families of her continual support. Sardar Asmatullah, president Rawalpindi High Court Bar Association, reiterated the civil liberties guaranteed to the citizens of Pakistan by its constitution. He condemned Pervez Musharraf for illegally imposing martial law and rendering the Chief Justice non-functional, and demanded the impeachment of the President for subverting the constitution. Hameed Gul, ex-head ISI, condemned the collusion of successive governments in selling their own citizens to world powers. He demanded justice for the students of Jamia Hafsa and highlighted the importance of a strong and independent judiciary to safeguard the rights of citizens. He further demanded that Pervez Musharraf be court-martialed and charged for high-treason. President PTI, Imran Khan, challenged Pervez Musharraf to declare the number of Pakistanis killed in the war on terror and called for his impeachment. Later, Justice (R) Wajihuddin pointed out the weakness of courts to curtail extra-judicial detention. He called for investigating the perpetrators of extra-judicial detention. Furthermore, he opined that Pervez Musharaf’s regime is dwindling and that Musharraf’s removal will have a critical impact on the results of the US election. Finally Qazi Hussain Ahmed, president JI, condemned the acts of Parvez Musharaf and his allies and said a prayer for the families of the missing persons.
More than 500 people from all walks of life were present there to show solidarity with the cause and with the aggrieved families.