ISLAMABAD: The head of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED), retired Justice Javed Iqbal, on Monday mocked parliamentarians, saying he believed that they were the most powerful stakeholders of the state but failed to deliver.

Justice Iqbal, who is also chairman of the National Accountability Bureau, was briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights about details and status of the cases of missing persons.

Zahra Wadood Fatemi presided over the meeting. Not a single male member of the committee attended the meeting.

Justice Iqbal told the meeting that he wanted to set the record straight as it was a fact that because of unemployment a large number of people joined firari (fugitive) camps and they were getting Rs40,000 as month salary, but they had been declared missing persons.

“Parliament had to find a solution but it did nothing. A report of the Judicial Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Kamal Mansoor was released five years ago, but parliament did nothing,” he regretted.

“Former interior minister Aftab Sherpao claimed that 4,000 people were handed over to other countries. Pervez Musharraf, in his book, admitted that people were handed over to other countries, but parliament never bothered to ask who they are. Currently, there are 2,500 persons on ships near the Philippines and thousands are in Bosnia and Guantanamo Bay. Out of which some are Pakistanis, but no one has bothered to ask about them. At least, we should have the actual number of Pakistanis kept there,” he said.

Says 3,500 people went to Afghanistan along with Sufi Mohammad, but only 135 returned

Justice Iqbal said he had asked Mr Sherpao to provide details, but he said he was not made aware of it.

He said 3,500 persons went to Afghanistan along with Sufi Mohammad, but only 135 of them returned. Other persons were in Afghanistan and involved in conspiracies against Pakistan, he alleged.

“The situation is normal in the country, but a negative perception has been created. Generally, it is blamed that the army is involved in cases of missing persons. Only 10 out of 100 persons are with some institutions. You [guys] have failed to clarify the situation at international forums. One woman, who is running an NGO, has been blaming institutions on the directions of other countries. UN agencies provided us lists and we recovered most of the missing persons,” he said.

In reply to a question asked by JUI-F legislator Aliya Kamran, Justice Iqbal said that a judicial commission was set up on the issue of mass graves, but its report would be in the shelf of some bureaucrat. “Some countries are fighting their war on our homeland. On the other hand, people passed derogatory remarks about the judiciary and the Constitution,” he said.

When Dr Shazia Sobia of the PPP asked if the committee could get the report about the persons who were handed over to other countries after receiving dollars, Justice Iqbal said first of all it had to be analysed how strong they [parliamentarians] were.

“As per the Constitution, parliament is the most powerful institution, but I remember that when I was briefing the then prime minister about the Abbottabad Commission report I realised after half an hour that the premier did not understand anything at all. In the end, the premier asked me to suggest what he should do. I said ‘lock the file in a cupboard and throw the key’. The same thing happened as no one bothered to implement the recommendations,” he said.

An MQM legislator handed over a list of 132 workers who had been missing since 2013 and asked what happened to the cases of missing persons who had been missing since the 1990s.

Justice Iqbal, after receiving the list, said that he would soon tell the the party how many of them were in South Africa and other countries. He said the MQM remained in the government, but it hardly tried to recover its missing workers.

He informed the committee that the commission had disposed of 3,219 of 4,929 cases it had received as missing persons who had been recovered or their location was identified.

Justice Iqbal said, being NAB chairman, he would like to clarify that he never took dictation from anyone and the day someone tried to dictate to him he would quit.

PML-N legislator Surriya Asghar said no one asked him to clarify. “We are well aware that how allegations are made and who is behind them,” she added.

Published in Dawn, Aprill 17th, 2018