ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday cautioned all the stakeholders that the Supreme Court might consider taking the emotive issue of missing persons as a serious violation of human rights under Article 184(3) of the Constitution in case no improvement was shown to arrest the alarming situation.

The chief justice, who presided over a high-profile meeting on the issue of missing persons at the Supreme Court, also emphasised that it was the duty of the departments concerned to guard their image and clear the issue to the extent of perception. And whatever number of persons are apprehended by security agencies they should immediately be dealt with in accordance with the law.

Read: Parliament did nothing about missing persons: Justice Iqbal

The officials of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry on Enforced Disappearances retired Justice Javed Iqbal and the secretaries of defence and interior attended the meeting.

At the outset, the chief justice showed his concern towards the constitutional obligations of all the state institutions, especially the courts, highlighting that the issue of enforced disappearance related to inviolable right of every citizen to life and liberty.

A far larger number of persons are shown as missing than actual, meeting told

CJP Nisar emphasised that the “Supreme Court will not tolerate such illegality qua the life and liberty of the citizens”.

The participants were asked to devise a reporting mechanism to verify if some missing persons were detained in jails of neighbouring countries or have joined terrorist outfits or have crossed over the borders.

A proper forensic data of fingerprints and DNA should also be developed, the chief justice said, as thousands of burials of unidentified dead bodies were made by NGOs like the Edhi Foundation and others.

The meeting also emphasised the need to have clear reporting of persons killed in drone attacks and conflicts in neighbouring and other countries. It was realised during the meeting that there was a large number of workers of an ethnic political group who were settled in South Africa, Middle Eastern and Far Eastern countries and were wrongly counted as missing persons.

During the meeting it was explained by the participants that the figures generally quoted were extremely exaggerated. The commission since its inception in March 2011, the meeting was told, had received about 5,290 cases of which 2,636 had already been traced, 446 were found not to be cases of enforced disappearance, whereas 382 cases were deleted on different technical grounds, including non-prosecution and incomplete addresses. Currently, the commission has a pendency of 1,828 cases.

The meeting appreciated the performance, dedication and understanding of the commission on the subject.

It was also highlighted during the meeting that there was a wide gap between the public perception and the reality and that a far larger number of persons were shown as missing than actual. Even the persons who have themselves gone abroad, languishing in the jails of different countries, especially Afghanistan and the Middle East, are also wrongly included.

Some of them have crossed the borders to join terrorist outfits and a large number has also been identified who, after being declared proclaimed offenders by different courts in different cases, have gone underground, the meeting was told.

Thus in quoting the figures, many such cases are reported in duplication i.e. some cases are reported at different forums and counted twice, the meeting was told.

The meeting was also informed about the role of hostile agencies of neighbouring countries, and in many cases, persons attempting to impersonate as officials of agencies have also been apprehended.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2018