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Asia

Fighting for Missing Persons in Pakistan

In conjunction with the so-called war on terror hundreds of people have disappeared in Pakistan. In 2006, after not hearing about their sons, husbands and fathers for years, the relatives of disappeared Pakistanis founded the "Defence of Human Rights Organisation".

Over the last two years, many Pakistanis have taken part in demonstrations for human rights and the rule of law

Over the last two years, many Pakistanis have taken part in demonstrations for human rights and the rule of law

To begin with, there were just three families in the network -- now there are 570. The NGO estimates there could be up to 10,000 disappeared people in Pakistan. Amina Janjua’s husband is one of them. He disappeared on a business trip from Rawalpindi to Peshawar in 2005.

Until her husband disappeared, Amina Janjua was a non-political housewife. But the mother-of-three became very active after her husband’s unexplained disappearance.

She had set her hopes on the new civilian government that took office last year. "We have had meetings with the Prime Minister, with President Asif Ali Zardari and with the head of the Muslim League(N), Nawaz Sharif," Amina recalls. "All these meetings have been very fruitful. And we've also had a meeting with the law minister and with the interior minister, who were all condemning these acts of human rights violations and they were saying that it was not done by our government, it was the previous government, which was very wrong and we will do something, we have made a committee to locate the missing persons."

"It's about our relatives"

Despite these promises, Amina Janjua continues to repeat her call to politicians. "It’s about our relatives, not about explanations and promises," she says. And that’s why she is often very critical of the government’s behaviour -- for example after the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad last September.

"If anything of this kind happens the government is just into picking up people like randomly", she complains. "They should adopt more sophisticated means of investigation, more logical and more concrete, instead of just picking up anybody who was there at the moment."

Amina says she is doing the work that the government should actually be doing. She helps families try to get innocent people released from illegal detention and campaigns against their being tortured. She has no other choice than to fight, she says.

"There are mostly women with me, who are determined to find their loved ones. They are financially, economically, socially, morally and emotionally devastated. But even then, they are determined to find their loved ones."

A network of women activists

Across Pakistan, Amina has encountered respect. But much more important to her is that they have been able to build up a network: "We contact each other", she says. "Women lawyers are in contact with me. I invite them to my demonstrations and when they have a demonstration for the lawyers and restoration of judiciary they always invite me and the families associatied with my organisation. So it's team work. It's a very vibrant society in Pakistan, which was not seen before and it's a new hope."

Before she met her husband and became a housewife, Amina Janjua studied art in Rawalpindi, getting a Master’s in Fine Arts. "Then I came in contact with Masood. He was a businessman in Rawalpindi. We were in love and we got married after one year. It was in 1989 and ever since then I had been extremely happy and satisfied."

Now she and their children miss Masood. But they all dream of a future with him and have not given up the hope that one day he will be at the door.

  • Date 05.02.2009
  • Author DW staff 05/02/09
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LruJ
  • Date 05.02.2009
  • Author DW staff 05/02/09
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LruJ