The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances has confirmed 318 new cases in the last four months alone. This is an alarming development and underscores the challenges confronting the new government. Indeed, the Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the matter to recover all missing persons by the end of next month. The Prime Minister, the Army chief and the judiciary are seemingly in agreement when it comes to addressing the issue. But given that since March 2011, the Commission has received some 5,639-related complaints — with only 3,600 being resolved — there is still much cause for worry. What is therefore needed across the board are more than mere platitudes. Thus the pressure is on and must be felt by the ruling PTI. Its chief, Imran Khan, has, during his 100-odd days in office, made much of how all state institutions are on the same page. The immediate test is to now demonstrate whether the civilians are leading from the front or otherwise. Moving forward, the Human Rights ministry has, in a welcome move, announced the drafting of legislation outlawing enforced disappearances. Yet in the meanwhile, activists want to see a change in the way in which the Commission goes about its business. Namely, the practice whereby the latter disposes of cases once security agencies confirm that a certain individual is in their custody. Meaning there is little or no follow-up.It is time to get serious about Pakistan’s missing persons; from Balochistan to Sindh to FATA. Last week alone saw three Baloch students disappeared. If the state fails in this regard it will have no legitimate grounds to lambast those groups who continue to raise this issue abroad; and who are routinely accused of sullying the country’s image on the international stage. Already, the German chapter of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) has been mobilising to show solidarity with and raise awareness for those who remain missing. And then at the beginning of next week — to coincide with International Human Rights Day — a similar event is being organised by the Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) — in New York to demonstrate the treatment of the Baloch at the hands of both the Pakistani and Iranian states. The group’s leader is scheduled to attend a seminar in India on the same day. The bottom line is this. As long as Pakistan fails to recover its missing persons — it will lose the moral high ground when it comes to pinpointing human rights atrocities committed by Indian forces in -held Kashmir. For the practice of enforced disappearances remains an affront to the democratic project; speaking as it does of immense abuses of power by certain branches of the state and complicity by others. In short, it reflects a federation acting extra-judicially at all levels. And while it is appreciated that all institutions are on the same page when it comes to Pakistan’s future trajectory — it is desperately hoped that this is one chapter that can be closed at the earliest. For as the now Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah noted back in the summer: enforced disappearances are akin to terrorism. *Published in Daily Times, December 5th 2018.