Washington Seminar Focuses on “Disappearances in Pakistan”

Washington, DC: The World Sindhi Institute (WSI) held a seminar on “Disappearances in Pakistan” on Thursday, February 22, 2007 at the National Press Club, Washington, DC.
The two-hour event was attended by representatives of prominent human rights organizations in DC, such as Torture, Abolition & Survivors Support Coalition; National Council of Negro Women, INC.; Amnesty International; Project on Middle East Democracy; Sindh Excellence Team; Pen Foundation and Sadhu Vaswani Mission; leading media agencies, including Reuters, ANI and Daily Times, etc.
Representatives from the business community, Pakistani students in the US, the US State Department, and Embassy of Pakistan in the USA, were also present. The event was marked by an extremely lively and intuitive discussion by most of the participants on the subject that has lately emerged as a major issue in Pakistan.
The speakers included: Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Chair and President Emerita, National Council of Negro Women, INC.; Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Executive Director of TASSC (Torture, Abolition & Survivors Support Coalition); T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia & Pacific, Amnesty International, USA; Yohannes Tsehai, Senior Legislative Counsel, Office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (Co-Chairperson of Congressional Pakistan Caucus); Munawar Laghari, Executive Director, The World Sindhi Institute, Washington , DC; and Ms. Humaira Rahman, Director WSI Canada, who also acted as the emcee. She opened the proceedings by welcoming the guests and provided a brief background to the issue of disappearances in Pakistan.
Dr. Dorothy I. Height; the keynote speaker, began by recalling that her first visit to the continent of Asia was in 1952, when she first landed in Karachi, Pakistan on her way to India . Thus she still considers Pakistan to be her orientation to that region. She reminded that in the history of nations, there usually comes a time when they have to sacrifice and pay the price for nation building, but hoped that history does not have to repeat itself and that we learn from mistakes committed in other parts of the world. Curtailing human expression by force has never succeeded as a mechanism of managing affairs of nations, as “Might is not always Right”.
Sister Dianna Ortiz from ‘Torture, Abolition & Survivors Support Coalition’ (TASSC) presented a forceful and emotional account of the human aspect of the issue of disappearance and torture in Argentina and Guatemala. She gave the perspective of a torture survivor, which she herself I,s and also narrated true stories of few torture victims in her circle of friends. Her paper included the perspective of the family of the victim, which she claimed, get as much hurt and devastated as the victim him/herself.
Mr. Yohannes Tsehai represented Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the co-chair of Pakistan Congressional Caucus at the seminar. He apprised the audience about the work done at the Congresswoman’s office regarding extra-judicial arrests, which particularly got triggered at the time of the disappearance of Dr. Safdar Sarki. He explained the process through which he himself conducted investigation on that particular case of disappearance: he carried out a fact-finding exercise at various levels, including interviews with Ambassador of Pakistan to the US. To his frustration and despair, no one seems to know anything about the whereabouts of Dr. Sarki, although there have been reports from independent sources that few detainees who returned from detention centers have personally met Dr. Sarki in one of the centers.
The last speaker was Mr. Munawar Laghari, Executive Director of The World Sindhi Institute in Washington, DC. He gave a a brief historical background to the practice of disappearances and torture during repeated phases of martial law and dictatorial regimes, with particular reference to the present regime.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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