The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday ordered the federal government to bear the monthly expenses of the family of Sajid Mehmood, an engineer who went missing in 2016.
IHC judge Justice Athar Minallah announced the verdict on a petition filed by Mehmood's wife Mahera Sajid two years ago, in which she claimed that on March 14, 2016, her husband was "abducted from their home in F-10/1 amid circumstances which strongly suggest that this is a case of enforced disappearance".
She had requested the court to declare the federal government responsible for the disappearance of her husband. She had also demanded that the federal government provide her and her children maintenance amounting to at least Rs117,500 per month and starting from March 14, 2016, when her husband was "abducted".
The verdict — which was reserved in February this year — directed the federal government to pay monthly expenses to Mehmood's family.
"The petitioner shall be paid an amount of Rs117,500 per month, or such amount as may be determined pursuant to verification, as the case may be. The arrears shall be calculated and paid to the petitioner with effect from March 14, 2016," the verdict said.
The judge also held state agencies, including Special Branch, Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence and the Military Intelligence, responsible for failing "to collect information and promptly report to the concerned functionaries regarding any incident of abduction of a citizen having the characteristics of an 'enforced disappearance' and to take effective measures in tracing the whereabouts of the victim".
"Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of this case, this court imposes cost of Rs100,000 each on Lt General (Retd) Zamirul-Hassan Shah, Secretary Ministry of Defence, Mr Zulfiqar Haider, [then] Chief Commissioner, Islamabad Capital Territory, Mr Khalid Khan Khattak, [then] Inspector General of Police, Islamabad Capital Territory and Capt. (Retd) Mushtaq Ahmed, [then] District Magistrate, Islamabad Capital Territory," Justice Minallah announced.
"Besides, a cost of Rs300,000 is imposed on Qaiser Niaz, [the] inspector who was the incharge of police station, Shalimar on March 14 [the day when Mehmood went missing]."
"The officials named above shall pay the costs through crossed cheques drawn in the name of the petitioner within 10 days from the date of announcement of this judgement," the court ordered.
Justice Minallah further ordered the federal government to constitute a committee comprising officials — who are not less than a federal secretary in rank — to conduct a thorough investigation into, what the judge termed as the failure of the criminal justice system.
In his verdict today, Justice Minallah said: "The failure of the criminal justice system to promptly respond to the complaint of the petitioner and then to conduct effective investigations stands established in the instant case."
The decision further said that: "It is established that the criminal justice system failed in responding promptly, followed by conducting effective investigations into a complaint of a citizen alleging enforced disappearance of a loved one, then the state depending on the facts and circumstances in each case shall become liable to compensate the person if it can be shown that the latter's fundamental right(s) stand infringed."
Meanwhile, a joint investigation team (JIT) is probing Mehmood's disappearance. In today's hearing, Justice Minallah ordered the JIT to submit fortnightly reports of its findings.