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Federal, KP govts fail to obtain missing persons data

Updated November 14, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Despite directions to present records of people incarcerated forcibly, representatives of the federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments showed up empty-handed in the Supreme Court on Monday when it took up the case of missing persons.

At the last hearing on Oct 26, a two-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, had ordered the two governments to submit complete records of people incarcerated forcibly in 45 different internment centres. They were also asked to share the latest updates including the offences they had been booked under, whether they were being tried under any law or not, and the duration of their incarceration.

The court had taken up 16 different cases of missing persons and had passed individual orders in each case, mainly directing the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances to submit a report within 15 days. In some cases, the court had ordered that arrangements be made for a meeting between family members and the detained persons.

When the case was taken up by the bench on Monday, Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti told the court that he had tried his best to contact the relevant departments but had not received a report as yet.

They tell SC they have contacted the departments concerned and are waiting for their reports

Similarly, KP’s Additional Advocate General Mian Arshad Jan explained that of the 45 internment centres in the country, only five or six were within the jurisdiction of KP, while rest were under the control of the central government. To this, Mr Bhatti quickly added that the internment centres in KP were the only truly functional ones.

The court, however, ordered both senior officers to discuss the matter with each other and submit the required information explaining whether those who were detained in various centres had been tried and convicted or not, within a fortnight.

Those detained at the internment centres were picked up under the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulations (AACPR) 2011 for involvement in terrorism related crimes. Promulgated in June 27, 2011, the regulation is applicable to provincially administered tribal areas. The regulation allows authorities to exercise it with retrospective effect from Feb 1, 2008.

On Monday, Defence of Human Rights chairperson Amina Masood Janjua, who has been struggling for the release of missing persons as well as her husband Masood Janjua who was also forcibly picked up, told the court that she had met the 11 Corps Peshawar, who, according to her, had the actual control of these internment centres. She lamented that nothing had come of that meeting.

Separately, the KP government submitted a report before the Supreme Court stating that a meeting of all stakeholders will be called to seek their input to resolve the issue of missing persons once and for all.

Moreover, the cases of all detained persons with prosecutable evidence against them would soon be transferred to the relevant courts, whereas those with no evidence would be released soon.

He stated that the relevant law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies had been asked to trace the whereabouts of the missing persons.

There was an alternative remedy available in the form of the commission constituted under the Pakistan Inquiry Act 1956, explained Advocate Jan, adding that the commission had taken up 1,448 cases and had disposed of more than 800 pertaining to KP, even though 784 cases were still pending. He suggested that the cases be transferred to the commission, because, he explained, there was an elaborate terms of reference devised by the interior ministry because of which many of the petitions were not maintainable.

The KP report stressed that ‘international terrorism’ and Pakistan’s geographical location had made it the main target of terrorism.

The AAG for KP recalled that the army had been called in most of the districts in the province under the 2011 regulations for Pata and Fata, besides the writ jurisdiction of the high court had also been suspended for the time being within the meaning of Article 245(3) of the Constitution.

On Monday, the court directed Ms Janjua to move an application for early hearing of her petition when she reminded the court about a case she had moved in 2014. In that petition, she had sought the constitution of a high-powered commission to probe what she claimed were the mysterious deaths of 98 forcibly disappeared people.

In a four-page petition, Ms Janjua had requested the court to bring those responsible for the murder of missing persons to book. She also requested that the commission constituted for it should also visit internment centres and unearth the facts regarding the mysterious conditions prevailing in the internment centres.

Ms Janjua contended that she became aware of a number of alleged deaths of missing persons in various internment centres. A large number of family members had regretted before the court that despite their efforts, they had been unable to arrange a meeting with their incarcerated relatives.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2017