ISLAMABAD: As Supreme Court action briefly united seven survivors in the case of 11 missing persons with their families on Monday, the agony of the families of 335 persons still in the custody of intelligence agencies continues.
According to data collected from the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances constituted by the Supreme Court and the private Defence of Human Rights Pakistan, the Pakistani intelligence agencies have picked up at least 1,065 persons since the 9/11 terror attacks.
While some of them had been extradited to the United States, about half of them released after the superior courts took notice of their disappearance.
The chairperson of Defence of Human Rights Pakistan, Amna Masood Janjua said the disappearances are still on as 95 persons went missing in 2011 as against 80 persons in 2010.
She said the reported cases of missing persons during 2011 included 43 from Punjab, 25 from Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, eight from Sindh, two from Azad Kashmir and 17 from Balochistan.
Ms Janjua said that out of 1,065 cases, the families of some missing persons did not pursue their cases in the courts due to various reasons.
She said her husband Masood Ahmed Janjua was among the remaining 335 missing persons.
“Despite pursuing the case of my husband for six long years in the courts, I did not get any relief while the security persons repeatedly changed their stance regarding the whereabouts of Mr Janjua,” she added.
“We staged a number of protest rallies and sit-ins but each time our voice fell on the deaf ears. The families of missing persons have now planned another sit-in outside the parliament house from Wednesday,” she announced.
Irum Jalal, a resident of Misrial Road of Rawalpindi talking to Dawn alleged that on January 18, 2011 her elder brother Mohammad Jamil, 29, a plumber was picked by the intelligence men when he was leaving for work at about 8 in the morning.
“We tried to lodge an FIR with the R.A. Bazar police station but the police refused to register a case because of the involvement of intelligence agencies,” she said.
Her father Jalal Khan is a retired army man, she said adding her brother was the only bread earner.
Muzzamil Shah, father of another missing person Mohammad Ali, a B.Com student, said his son was allegedly taken into custody by the agencies' people in July 2007 during Lal Masjid operation.
He said Ali went to the mosque to offer prayers but was trapped there for nine days and after the operation he was arrested along with other students of Lal Masjid. Initially, his captors allowed him to call his family after every six months but for the last two years he has not made any call, he said.
Col (retired) Inamur Rahim advocate, who has served in the judge advocate general (JAG) branch of Pakistan Army that deals with the cases of the missing persons as well, told Dawn that the intelligence operatives on suspicion raid any particular place and pick all the persons even innocent ones.
According to him, the agencies could pick a civilian under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 but they are bound to produce them for trial within eight days of their arrest. He alleged that the authorities were not following the army act.
He said in most cases the authorities abuse their powers and after keeping in illegal detention they forced a person to record confessional statement for a crime he did not commit.
In some cases the missing person may face penalty and in some cases the court may acquit him.
He said in the case of 11 prisoners who went missing after their acquittal from anti terrorism court was a perfect example of agencies highhandedness in which 4 detainees died in their custody. He demanded that the Supreme Court should also fix the responsibility of the death of these prisoners.
An official of a security agency on the other hand said they arrested terrorists after gathering solid information and evidences but the court released them because the evidences available with the security agencies could not be admissible under the law of evidence.
There are loopholes in the criminal justice system and the terrorists always get benefit of the doubt and managed their acquittals. That left the agencies' people with no option but to arrest them again, he explained.
He stressed the need of updating the anti-terrorism law.