KARACHI, Aug 2: The Military Intelligence has neither arrested nor confined three Jamhoori Watan Party officials and a former student alleged to have been held by it, a communication from the judge advocate-general’s branch of the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army, Rawalpindi, informed the Sindh High Court on Wednesday.

The authenticity of the unsigned statement was questioned by the petitioners’ counsel immediately as it was submitted by Deputy Attorny-General Akhtar Ali Mehmood to a division bench comprising Justices Sarmad Jalal Osmany and Maqbool Baqar. The bench had directed a Karachi-based JAG official on Monday to cause the appearance of the local MI chief or at least disclose his and MI director’s names. Col Iqbal Soho, assistant judge-advocate-general, expressed his inability to name the officers and the bench issued summons to the MI officer heading its Karachi network..

Noor Naz Agha, counsel for JWP vice-president Salim Baloch, deputy secretary-general Abdur Rauf Sasoli and Karachi division chief Saeed Brohi, and Shahid Qadeer Suharwardy, counsel for Affan Leghari, a former business administration student suspected of links with an extremist religious organisation, asserted that the four detainees were held by the MI in Karachi. They pointed out that besides being unsigned, the JAG statement contradicted the earlier official claim that the MI did not function under the overall control and supervision of the ministry of defence.

The JAG letter was submitted through DAG A.A. Mehmood, who described it as confidential. The bench, however, decided to bring it on record and asked the law officer to furnish its copies to both the counsel. The letter warned that identification of an MI officer would amount to issuing his “death warrant in view of the ‘sensitive nature of the war on terror”. It said the MI had neither had authority to arrest or confine civilians nor responsible for measures to ascertain whereabouts of missing individuals.

Keeping in view the sensitive nature of war on terror, the letter said, the identity of the officers of MI Directorate, whenever compromised, would have serious consequences and would amount to issuing their death warrants.

Recalling that it had been confirmed in writing through the ministry of defence and a personal affidavit sworn by the defence secretary that the detainees were neither apprehended nor confined by any military agency, the letter said the MI ‘has no jurisdiction legally to arrest civilians’ nor was it obliged to take measures to trace out the whereabouts of missing individuals.

“The GHQ is a part of the Ministry of Defence and the MI Directorate falls within the purview of the GHQ. The civilian entity under which the Pakistan Army works is the Ministry of Defence”, it added.

The counsel pressed for production orders but the bench remarked that when the principal law officer of the federal government in Karachi (the DAG) vouchsafes for the authenticity of the letter, it had no option to but to lend credence to it and bring it on record.

As for the demand that an inspection of the place of detention (Liaquat Barracks, Karachi) indicated in respect of the three JWP detainees should be ordered, the bench said any raid might be rendered fruitless by transfer of the detainees or detention of the bailiffs. The court could not pass any order for recovery or production in such circumstances, the bench told the counsel, expressing its inability.

Adjourning the hearing to August 16, the bench, however, asked the interior and defence secretaries and the provincial home secretary and police chief to make all-out efforts to trace the detainees and submit their report by the next date.

Additional Advocate-General Abbas Ali was asked to convey the direction to the provincial officers. Abdur Rauf Sasoli was picked up from in front of the Safari Park in February and Salim Baloch and Saeed Brohi, who was a witness to Sasoli’s arrest, in March. Affan Leghari was picked up in Oct 2004 for suspected links with a jihadi organisation. A petition for his recovery was moved by his mother, Ms Zahida Leghari, in Oct 2005. The police and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have denied having arrested or confined the four detainees.

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