Clamour in the courtroom at the Supreme Court Karachi led Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to briefly halt the proceedings on missing persons on Sunday.
There was tight security in and around the court premises, where the CJP was due at noon and Rangers Director General Muhammad Saeed, Sindh Inspector General Amjad Saleemi, provincial interior secretary and intelligence officials were to furnish their responses after the top judge took notice a day earlier of the non-recovery of missing persons in Sindh.
The road in front of the SC was blocked off to traffic, and the family members of missing persons, who were carrying placards and photos of their loved ones, were held back by a security cordon.
As they spoke to the media outside the court, tearful family members appealed to the CJP to help ensure the recovery of their missing children, fathers and brothers.
"We've knocked on every door seeking justice," they lamented. "Where else should we go?"
"We have no hope from security institutions," they said, asking law enforcers to check CCTV footage to find out who had picked up their loved ones.
"Our children have been missing for years, we have no information about them. If our children are dead, we should be told," they demanded.
Rights activist and election candidate Jibran Nasir, speaking to reporters at the scene, said it appeared as though the country was someone's kingdom. "People are being prevented from reaching the Supreme Court. You can't even say anything to institutions because then your patriotism is questioned."
"Extrajudicial encounters are becoming common in Sindh. If this continues to happen without justice being served, the situation will deteriorate," he said.
As the top judge reached the Karachi registry, security forces had to hold families back from trying to reach him, leading to a heated exchange between both parties.
Security forces said they had been given orders not to allow people inside the court until the CJP gave instructions.
Shortly after, the IG Sindh Police and DG Rangers reached the court as well and briefed the CJP on missing persons.
The CJP said he would begin the open court hearing soon and asked staff for the names of the families of missing persons to be allowed into the courtroom.
In addition to the DG Rangers and the IG Sindh, Military Intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau officials were also scheduled to submit their responses to the CJP today.
Clamour in the courtroom
As the hearing began, the families of missing persons raised a ruckus in the courtroom. Despite the CJP's attempts at silencing them, yelling, screaming and crying rang out in the courtroom. Police and Rangers contingents were called in to control the chaos.
The families of missing persons began beating the tables loudly while the CJP asked them for silence. After a while, the top judge quietly got up and left the courtroom without passing any orders.
When Justice Nisar left, the families of the missing became incensed and began hurling accusations at each other for disrupting court and causing the judge to leave the courtroom.
"For years, our family members have been missing. We had hope today when we came to court, but because of the noise, the CJP has left," one of them said.
A lady police officer was called in to forcibly remove women from the rostrum.
The CJP called the IG Sindh and DG Rangers into his chamber and then returned to the hearing after a short break.
"You may have complaints, but this sort of behaviour is unacceptable," the CJP told the petitioners upon his return. "I am sure the women of my country would not misbehave in a court in this manner."
He called a woman who had been beating the rostrum with her fists back to the dais and asked her to make an unconditional apology. She complied.
"If you had been a man, I would have sent you to jail," the CJP said to her.
The CJP in his remarks censured the petitioners, saying: "I left for Karachi at 2am for you but you people have shown contempt for the court. How did you dare to lift a finger at a police officer?" he asked.
The petitioners' lawyers also apologised to the CJP.
He received the families' requests regarding the missing persons and ordered action on all petitions.
He ordered law enforcers to make information gathering and recovery of missing persons a priority, to set up a special cell for the issue, and to brief the SC Human Rights Cell on the matter.
The families of the missing said that their loved ones had been missing for a long time, without even their bodies being found. One of the petitioners, Neelum, said her father had been missing for 14 months. The CJP ordered the Sindh IG and other officials to conduct a probe into her father's disappearance and to submit a report on the matter.