PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Wednesday disposed of 14 petitions against the detention of different suspects in internment centres asking the government to provide health services to the detainees and visitation rights to their relatives.

Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor announced the order after additional advocate general Waqar Ahmad Khan informed the court that the provincial government recently passed an Act to protect the laws, which were enforced in the erstwhile Fata before its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including the Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation, 2011.

He said internment centres in merged tribal districts were set up under that regulation.

The AAG said last month, the KP Continuation of Laws in Erstwhile Fata Areas, 2019, was passed by the provincial assembly, while all laws introduced under Article 247 of the Constitution were given protection.

He said those laws would remain in force until they’re repealed or amended by the competent authority.

Orders provision of health services to detainees, visitation rights to relatives

The bench wondered when Article 247 of the Constitution was omitted through the Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Act, 2018, then how the laws made under it could be given protection.

It, however, observed that as none of the petitioners had challenged the vires of the Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation, it couldn’t decide that issue during hearing into the instant petitions.

The bench observed that the petitioners could challenge the regulation and the recent Act of the provincial government.

Few weeks ago, the high court had sought the response of the federal and KP government about the legal status of the internment centres after the Fata-KP merger.

Most of these petitioners have raised almost identical points claiming that the detainees were taken into custody many years ago by security forces and were subsequently shifted to notified internment centres set up under the two regulations - Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation, 2011, for Fata and Pata.

They claimed that the detainees had been interned for many years without any trial, which was illegal and unconstitutional and that the detainees had mostly been not informed about their crimes.

In one of the petitions filed by resident of Mohmand district Abdullah, his counsel Azra Suleman said her client’s close relative Tayyab Khan was taken into custody by the security forces on Sept 8, 2014, from his house and he remained missing thereafter until he was shifted to an internment centre in 2015.

She said the relevant authorities had accused the detainee of being affiliated with a banned outfit but despite the passage of five years, neither his trial began nor was he freed.

The lawyer questioned the status of internment centres after the passage of the Constitution (Twenty-Fifth Amendment) Act saying once the tribal areas were merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the legal status of the regulations through which those centres were set up had become questionable.

The two regulations – Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation 2011 for Fata and Pata – were promulgated on June 23, 2011.

As hundreds of suspected militants were arrested in different military operations, especially those carried out in Swat, and were kept in illegal detention for many years, these regulations were given retrospective effect from Feb 1, 2008, to legalise those confinements.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2019