ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday observed that the police had more powers than intelligence agencies but due to the incompetence of its officials, they cannot exercise their authority.

A two-member division bench passed these observations while hearing an appeal filed by the federal government against the decision of a single-member bench in a missing person case.

Justice Athar Minallah on July 10, 2018, disposed of the petition filed by Mahera Sajid, the spouse of missing IT engineer Sajid Mehmood, after directing the federal government to pay Rs117, 500 per month to the petitioner as a monthly expense since her husband had gone missing due to the negligence of state institutions.

The judge also held intelligence agencies, including the Special Branch, Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence and 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”.

Justice Minallah announced: “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, Zulfiqar Haider, [then] Chief Commissioner Islamabad, Khalid Khan Khattak, [then] Inspector General of Police Islamabad and Capt (Retd) Mushtaq Ahmed, [then] District Magistrate Islamabad.”

Besides, a cost of Rs300,000 was imposed on Qaiser Niaz, who was the in-charge of the Shalimar police station when Mr Mehmood went missing.

But these authorities challenged the single bench’s direction before the two-member division bench.

When the division bench took up the matteron Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Mehmood Kayani contended that since these authorities were government officials they may not be fined over the enforced disappearance.

He said the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was proceeding in the case of Mr Mehmood.

When the bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, inquired about the progress, the DAG replied that a joint investigation team (JIT), comprising officials of ISI, MI, IB and police, was probing the matter.

The police investigation officer informed the court that the intelligence agencies might be involved in the disappearance of Mr Mehmood.

“It is strange that those who are allegedly behind the disappearance are also in the investigation team,” observed Justice Farooq.

But when the court inquired about the evidence on the basis of which the police investigation had drawn such a conclusion, the officer replied that he had recently been given the case and was not well aware of the facts.

“Did you ever summon any captain, major or director of any agency to probe this enforced disappearance?” asked Justice Kayani. He reminded the officer that the police had all the powers to make arrest, register an FIR and take custody of any person for an investigation.

“However, it is due to the incompetence of police that they cannot probe matters related to intelligence agencies,” he remarked.

The police might have summoned the spouse of the missing person with the investigation officer expecting that she would inquire about her husband on her own, the judge added.

“Let’s suppose the missing person was a terrorist, involved in anti-state activities or was an Indian agent, how much time one requires to investigate,” asked Justice Farooq.

Mr Mehmood was picked from his residence at F-10/1 on March 14, 2016.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2018

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