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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court referred 300 cases of missing persons to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances in the current year.

This was disclosed in a report submitted by the Ministry of Interior to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in response to a petition filed by the wife of a missing man.

The ministry in its report suggested that the court may direct the petitioner to approach the commission for the recovery of her husband.

In the petition, Mahera Sajid sought the recovery of her husband, Sajid Mehmood, who has been missing since March 14, 2016. Mr Mehmood, a father of three girls, was picked from his residence in F-10/1 by around eight men, the petition stated.

It alleged that the men who allegedly took Mr Mehmood away had come in a land cruiser and two double-cabins. After searching the house for around 20 minutes, they allegedly took some of the family’s computers, couple’s academic certificates, property records, keys and registration book of a car.

Ministry of Interior requests IHC to direct petitioner to approach Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances for recovery of her husband

The petition cited the secretaries of defence and interior, the inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad, the heads of intelligence agencies and the Shalimar police as respondents. The court had sought reports from the ministries of interior and defence.

The interior ministry in its report submitted by Deputy Secretary Azhar Amin Chaudhry stated that the missing man was not in the custody of its two investigation wings - the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) police.

“These two agencies have confirmed that Mr Mehmood had neither been arrested nor detained by them,” the reply said, adding the Punjab Rangers too confirmed that they did not arrest the man.

The report said the ministry had constituted a joint inquiry committee, comprising FIA, police and the capital police officials, which wrote letters to the quarters concerned – the chief commissioner and the SSP operations Islamabad.

They have been directed to apprise the ministry if they have “exhausted all resources and options for tracing the missing person and there is no lacuna left in searching.” The chief commissioner has also been requested to assign the task to the Provincial Task Force for tracing the man. The ministry requested the court to dismiss the petition.

Justice Athar Minallah had earlier asked the president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, Tariq Mehmood Jehangiri, and eminent lawyers Babar Sattar and Ahmer Bilal Soofi to give suggestions about a proper legal course of action which a high court can adopt when confronted with such a case where the state failed to protect the life and liberty of citizens.

Published in Dawn October 22nd, 2016