ISLAMABAD, Aug 8: As the federal government is busy preparing a national policy on missing persons, retired Colonel Inamur Raheem, an army officer-turned lawyer who is fighting for the rights of unfortunate individuals, drew the attention of Attorney General Muneer A. Malik to another category of enforced disappearance.
The attorney general, who has been supervising the government’s efforts to prepare the policy, had informed the Supreme Court on July 1 that there were four categories of enforced disappearance.
Col Raheem wrote a letter and also held a meeting with the attorney general requesting him to consider incorporating a fifth category of missing persons into the national policy.
Talking to Dawn, Col Raheem said the fifth category related to the people who had gone missing and after several years their families were shocked to know that they were detained in civilian prisons as military trial convicts. He said the attorney general was surprised to know about this category and assured him that his suggestions would be considered by a task force set up to prepare the policy on missing persons.
Col Raheem alleged that during the Musharraf regime these people were subjected to secret trials and not even allowed to be represented by legal counsel. No charge-sheet or summary of evidence was delivered to them before or during the trial. The proceedings of such trials are still not made available to the victims, including civilians and military personnel.
Col Raheem also drew the attention of the attorney general to a recent case -- Rana Naveed versus Federation of Pakistan -- decided by the Supreme Court this year. The court observed that Rana Naveed and Amir Sohail had been sentenced to life imprisonment and ten years rigorous imprisonment, respectively, by a military court. The military court of appeals converted the sentence of both the convicts into death and refused to provide trial proceedings.
The apex court summoned details of the proceedings, but the military authorities at first refused to do so. However, they relented after the court’s insistence. During the scrutiny it was revealed that neither the convicts had filed appeals nor had the military court given notice to them for converting their sentence. The apex court accepted the appeals and declared the enhanced sentence illegal, without jurisdiction and coram non judice.
The irony of the fact, Col Raheem stated in the letter, was that the army court was headed by a corps commander and its other members were two Brigadiers and the judge advocate.
Referring to a case, he said Lance Naek Islamuddin Siddique had been arrested in Peshawar, interrogated and tried by a secret court in Kharian and produced before a “mock appellate court”, headed by a major general in Sargodha. He was finally hanged in Multan central jail. His family was informed only a day before his execution. He was not allowed to file mercy petition. His family is still knocking at the doors of the GHQ to know about the charges made against him.
Col Raheem said 12 people had been awarded death penalties by military courts and they were awaiting execution. A number of others, including four military officers, who have been awarded life terms are languishing in jails and waiting for justice. He said none of them had been provided trial proceedings despite repeated written requests and, in some cases, the orders of superior courts had been blatantly disobeyed.
Dividing the missing persons’ cases into four categories, the attorney general informed the Supreme Court that the first category related to the cases where direct evidence was available; the second where circumstantial evidence was available; in the third there was no clue or evidence; and the fourth related to those in which disappearances was not enforced.
The AG set up a special cell headed by Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar in his office to ensure implementation of the apex court’s orders in cases related to missing persons.
The AG had conceded that in the absence of a proper legislation by parliament, progress in investigation into the cases was very difficult.
Tariq Khokhar is also part of the task force which is preparing the national policy. The first meeting of the task force was held on July 29 in the ministry of interior. It constituted a sub-committee and asked it to formulate concrete proposals for the policy on missing persons.