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Court seeks policy to end enforced disappearances

July 24, 2013
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — File Photo
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court sought on Tuesday a comprehensive policy from the federal government suggesting measures against enforced disappearances.

The government is required to formulate the policy in 10 days and inform the court about steps to be taken to recover missing persons and discourage the disturbing trend of individuals picked up allegedly by intelligence agencies.

“We direct Attorney General Muneer A. Malik that he should point out to us about the policy of the government as to what measures being taken to ensure that no person is subjected to enforced disappearance,” said an order dictated by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who heads a three-judge bench hearing cases of missing persons.

“It is the duty of the state to look into the aspect and formulate policies ensuring that persons are recovered as early as possible to help reduce the miseries and plight of family members of the victims, including womenfolk, children and their parents,” the order said.

The court ordered that a summary of the cases be sent to the government, along with the order, for consideration.

It said that if an accused was found involved in committing crimes against the state or society he should be dealt with sternly. The court noted that about 504 persons had been arrested from various areas and confined in different internment centres set up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulations 2011, but their cases were not being sent to the competent courts of jurisdiction for trial.

The act authorises the civil government to detain in the centres persons accused of terrorism.

“There are also complaints that these prisoners are not being looked after properly at the internment centres since there are issues of proper supply of food and clothing to them,” the court regretted.

It said the cases of enforced disappearance had also been under consideration of different high courts for so many years. The courts were trying to ensure that the fundamental rights of citizens under Article 9 were implemented, but again it was the primary duty of the government to protect the life and liberty of its citizens, it observed.

The court regretted that the misery of families of the missing persons was increasing day by day in the absence of sufficient resources to support them or provide them security of life. At times it becomes difficult for the victims’ families to even reach courts to attend hearings.

On the other hand, the bench said, the courts issued notices to the attorney general or advocates general of the provinces and state functionaries like police officials for the recovery of missing persons. Sometimes they succeed in proving relief, but on occasions a person is recovered with a warning not to divulge anything about their captors.

The court said it would continue to hear the cases but it would be better if the government played its due role in ensuring the fundamental rights of the missing persons under the constitution.

Referring to an application filed by Abida Malik, the court ordered Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar to seek instructions from the defence secretary whether an individual or an institution was behind the abduction of her husband.

Abida Malik alleged that her husband Tasif Ali alias Danish had been picked up by Major Haider of the Military Intelligence (MI) on Nov 23, 2011, from Azad Kashmir.

Dr Mohammad Aslam said his son-in-law had an argument on telephone with Major Haider a day before his abduction. He said Major Haider might be a business partner of Tasif who was doing timber business and also crossed the border in 1999 from Kashmir. He said he had met Major Haider but after that he was not accessible.

The MI had rejected the allegations and said Tasif had neither been apprehended nor held by it. Major Haider was neither posted to the place concerned nor had any role in Tasif’s abduction.

About the case of Amina Masood Janjua, chairperson of the Defence of Human Rights who is campaigning for the release of detained persons including her husband Masood Janjua, the court was informed by Superintendent Police of Rawalpindi Haroon Joya that Civil Judge Rawalpindi Irfan Naseem Tarar had issued an arrest warrant against Brig Mansoor Saeed Shah of the Inter Services Intelligence in whose captivity Dr Imran Munir had been kept from July 2006 to March 2007.

In his statement recorded before a joint investigation team constituted on the orders of former interior minister Rehman Malik in December 2009, Dr Munir said that during his captivity in a secret detention cell somewhere near Zakaria Masjid Road, Westridge, he had come across a few inmates and one of them was a businessman from Rawalpindi namely Masood Janjua who had been missing since July 30, 2005.

Dr Munir now lives in Malaysia.

SP Joya said the defence ministry had denied that the ISI had any detention cell near Zakaria Masjid Road.

The court directed the police officer to handle the case carefully since the honour of institutions was involved in the matter.