ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court asked the federal government on Monday to explain how the detention of retired lieutenant colonel Inamur Rahim, a lawyer known for pursuing missing persons cases, concerned national security.

“Come on Tuesday to explain how the detention of Col Inam is related to national security,” said Justice Mushir Alam, who heads a three-judge Supreme Court bench which is hearing an appeal filed by the federal government against a declaration by the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench on Jan 9 that the detention of Inam-ul-Rahiem was illegal and unlawful. The bench had taken up a petition filed by Husnain Inam, the son of advocate Inamur Rahim.

The lawyer was picked up by the military authorities from his home in Rawalpindi on Dec 17.

The Supreme Court’s directive came after Attorney General Anwar Mansoor prayed for in-camera proceedings on the government’s appeal since the matter concerns national security.

The bench also asked the federal government to produce Col Inam before the Supreme Court on Tuesday (today). The government was asked to furnish a written reply explaining why his continued detention was necessary.

But Qalbe Hassan, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), said the lawyers community “knows well the reason behind Mr Inam’s arrest”.

“The lawyer was arrested because he provided a copy of the Army Act to the Supreme Court bench that was hearing a case relating to extension in the army chief’s tenure,” Mr Hassan alleged.

The court also asked the government to produce Col Inam before it, but the AG sought a review of the directive and suggested the matter be heard in chambers instead of an open court.

Justice Alam replied that the court had no objections, but added that the government must come up with some documents to convince it about the necessity for in-camera hearing.

The apex court even made an offer that the documents produced by the government would not be made public, saying that it wanted to ascertain which national security threat required the lawyer’s detention.

The attorney general suggested that the Jam 9 order be suspended, giving an assurance that the detained lawyer would be presented before the court.

The AG presented a report regarding the lawyer’s detention, but Justice Alam observed that the contents had already been published. “Do not try to dramatise things,” Justice Alam observed.

Jointly moved by the ministries of defence and interior, the federal government had pleaded through its appeal before the Supreme Court that the Lahore High Court had ignored the fact that the lawyer was arrested on a charge of espionage under the Official Secrets Act 1923 as well as offences under the Pakistan Army Act 1952.

The release of the detained person at this stage of investigation will amount to hampering the entire process involving heinous charges, the petition contended.

Moreover, the high court was approached through a habeas corpus petition, which became infructuous the moment a disclosure was made before the court that the accused was apprehended by the military authorities under Section 2(1)(d), read with Sections 59 and 73 of the Pakistan Army Act, and the Pakistan Army rules as well as the Official Secrets Act 1923.

The high court ignored a settled principle of law that where any interpretation was required, a proper notice to the attorney general was mandatory, the petitioner said. “But in this case no such notice was issued. Therefore, the Jan 9 order is a nullity in law,” the appeal argued.

Moreover, the petition added, security of the state would be adversely affected if law enforcement agencies were stopped from arresting such accused as they were allegedly involved in espionage activities and were under investigation.

But the high court overlooked the law that if any person, including a retired army officer, commits any offence under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 and the Official Secrets Act 1923 in relation to affairs of the armed forces, that individual would be subject to the same act and can be arrested or detained for investigation, collection of evidence and trial if recommended in the matter.

The appeal stated that the petition was being filed against the short order which had an effect of a final order since the petitioners would suffer an irreparable loss in case of its implementation.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020