ISLAMABAD: Taking serious notice of non-compliance of its orders in a missing person case, the Supreme Court warned on Monday of initiating contempt proceedings against the government for what it called not paying heed to its directives.
“We are not going to take the missing person cases casually and would issue notices (of contempt) against the government,” observed Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja who was heading a three-judge Supreme Court bench.
The bench was hearing the case of missing person Yasin Shah on an application of his elder brother Muhabbat Shah.
On the basis of this case the court had issued directives to army authorities on Dec 10 last year to remove 35 persons from the Malakand Internment Centre, but only seven persons were produced before the court.
The court dropped hints that it would ask the government whether it was superior or subservient to intelligence agencies.
At the last hearing on Jan 10, the court ordered Secretary to the Prime Minister Javed Aslam to bring to the notice of the prime minister the lack of implementation of its order to produce before it the rest of the 35 missing persons. The court also ordered Chief Secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mohammad Shahzad Arbab to bring to the notice of Chief Minister Pervez Khattak the non-compliance of its earlier order.
Referring to tragic incidents of bomb blasts in Rawalpindi and Bannu, the court deplored lawlessness in the society.
Additional Advocate General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Zahid Qureshi informed the court that replies were ready but could not be filed because of short time.
Salman Aslam Butt, the newly appointed Attorney General, assured the court that he would do his best, but sought a short adjournment since he had taken the charge of his office on Saturday last. He, however, reminded the court that the defence ministry had submitted a reply.
The case will be taken up again on Jan 22.
About the defence ministry’s reply, the court said it had nothing new and the ministry repeated what it had said earlier. The court said the government in fact was dragging its feet in the recovery of missing persons.
“We could understand the difficulty because we are passing through a turbulent time of our history and also knew about the delicacy of the issue but the government either should take a clear stance or openly declare that those missing were not citizens of Pakistan or were a second rate citizens and not entitled to the protection of law,” observed Justice Khawaja.
The court accused the government of lacking sincerity in resolving the issue of missing persons.
During the proceedings, Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar informed the court that a new law on internal security was likely to be presented before the next session of the National Assembly commencing on Jan 27. He reminded the court that since July last year 800 missing persons had been recovered and with the exception of one or two, no-one had been picked up by any intelligence agency during this period.
Meanwhile, another Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk while hearing the case of another missing person, Hamad Amir, summoned Director Legal of the defence ministry and hinted at calling those who were directly responsible for detaining people.
Hamad Amir was picked up from his house in Westridge on Nov 17, 2009 and according to Amina Masood Janjua — who is spearheading the cause of missing persons — he had been detained in a safe house in I-9/3 Islamabad.
But, the court was informed that the Inter Services Intelligence had denied having Hamad Amir in its custody and the Military Intelligence had asked for two more weeks for its reply on the issue of his whereabouts.
During the proceedings, Justice Saqib Nisar — one of the members of the bench — wondered why intelligence agencies were not addressing allegations being levelled against them. He said the most important right of a citizen was the right to life.
The case will be taken up again on Feb 3.