ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ruled that enforced disappearance is a “heinous offence” and officials involved in such a crime should be “proceeded against for misconduct besides criminal proceedings”.

Justice Athar Minallah in his written order in a case related to a missing scientist associated with a sensitive organisation and his spouse expressed dissatisfaction over a report submitted by the Ministry of Defence according to which the missing couple, Nozair Hasan and his wife Omaima Hasan, were not in the custody of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) or the Military Intelligence (MI).

The defence ministry, however, informed the IHC that it had initiated a special probe into the matter but it was time consuming.

Judge expresses dissatisfaction over interior ministry’s response on missing scientist and spouse

Justice Minallah’s written order stated that the report of defence ministry “is evasive and does not explain efforts made by the intelligence agencies to gather information regarding the incident and whereabouts of the couple”.

During the hearing, the judge pointed out that this was the 90th case of enforced disappearance reported since January 2018.

“It is not enough for the secretary, ministry of defence to state that the missing couple is not in the custody of the intelligence agencies…In any event, no citizen can be taken into custody by any agency without due process of law.”

The order added: “It is also noted that taking into custody any citizen of Pakistan otherwise than under the law tantamount to a heinous offence, which inter alia may expose the official to be proceeded against for misconduct besides criminal proceeding.”

The judge directed the defence secretary to inform the court as to “whether the intelligence agencies under the control of his ministry lack the capacity and competence to safeguard fundamental rights of citizens by failing to trace the missing couple”.

Justice Minallah ordered the Ministry of Defence, the inspector general of police (IGP) and the Islamabad chief commissioner to submit reports regarding the missing scientist and his wife.

The court also ordered these authorities to identify the persons who were holding the posts of the chief commissioner Islamabad, district magistrate, IGP Islamabad and the station house officer of the police station concerned when the couple was alleged to have been abducted from their house.

The judge warned that in case the authorities failed to submit a satisfactory response, they “shall explain as to why they may not be held accountable and proceeded against for breach of their duty”.

In his petition, Nozair Hasan’s father Khubaib Hasan stated that at about 2a.m. on Jan 12 a contingent of masked armed men attired in black uniform along with some people in plainclothes trespassed into their residence and carried out a search.

They not only harassed the couple but also abducted them in front of their two minor children, it added.

The FIR was lodged with the police on Jan 17. The petition requested the court to direct the respondents to produce his son and daughter-in-law safe and sound before the court.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2018

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