Missing persons’ advocate

Updated 04 Jan 2020


It can only be described as the cruellest of ironies that a man who devoted many years of his life fighting for missing persons would himself become a victim of enforced disappearance.

In the early hours of Dec 17, advocate Inamur Rahim, a retired military lawyer, was abducted at gunpoint by unidentified individuals from his home, in the presence of members of his family. It was only on Thursday that the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court was finally informed by a representative of the Ministry of Defence that Mr Rahim was being held by its subordinate agency under the Pakistan Army Act for an alleged and unspecified violation of the Official Secrets Act.

This, however, does not explain why he was kidnapped from his home in lieu of a formal indictment, or his continued detention without informing his distraught family of his whereabouts or granting him access to legal counsel.

Besides now granting such access to family and lawyers, the ministry must demonstrate that Mr Rahim’s due process rights have not been and are not being violated, and that he can be guaranteed a fair trial under such circumstances. Serious as the substantive charges against him may be, they do not give the state carte blanche to throw procedural law out of the window. Moreover, given the nature of Mr Rahim’s work and the fact that he has previously faced threats in the course of such work, the ministry must at the very least satisfy the court that there are legitimate grounds on which to charge him and that his detention does not constitute a form of harassment.

In this entire murky episode, one thing is certain: the public’s growing disquiet over a general escalation of abuse of powers by state institutions increasingly embodying the bewildering, convoluted logic of a Kafkaesque nightmare. The defence ministry must clarify how Mr Rahim’s detention is not a reflection of this phenomenon in order to assuage such concerns.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2020