'I drive alone at night': Shibli plays down peril as PM directs police to recover missing SECP official
Information Minister Shibli Faraz on Tuesday appeared to play down the disappearance of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Joint Director Sajid Gondal from Islamabad, saying the capital city was safe enough for him, a minister, to drive alone at night.
He made the comments while addressing a post-cabinet meeting press conference, in which he said Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed "serious concern" over such an incident having taken place in the capital.
Faraz said the premier directed the Islamabad inspector general of police and interior ministry to ensure Gondal's recovery through coordination with "concerned stakeholders". The SECP official went missing last week.
But when a reporter inquired about the worsening law and order situation in Islamabad which he said resulted in "even government servants" being picked up, the minister sought to defend the state of affairs.
"These things should not take place but unfortunately they do happen in countries," Faraz replied. "A law and order situation always remains, but it is not as bad as you are saying."
He said "being a minister", he confidently drives himself to various places in the capital at night.
"We hope that he (Gondal) is alive and pray that he does not suffer any harm," Faraz said, adding that the government realised the pain his family would be going through.
"I hope Allah keeps us all in his protection and safe from any vice that causes distress to families."
According to the minister, the cabinet informed the Islamabad police chief and interior secretary that it is the government's duty to prevent such incidents. They were directed to make full efforts for Gondal's recovery, he said.
Gondal had gone missing on Thursday night and his car was found from Park Road the next morning.
His wife submitted a complaint of the incident at the Shahzad Town police station, expressing suspicion that her husband had been "kidnapped by unidentified persons". She urged the police to ensure his return, adding that the family "did not have any enmity".
The Shahzad Town police registered a case over the official's disappearance under Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint lodged by his wife.
The FIR stated that Gondal left his house on Thursday at around 7:30pm in his official car but did not return. Later his car was found parked at Chak Shahzad Town road near the National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC) but he was missing from there, the FIR stated, adding that his mobile phone was found switched off since then.
Case in IHC
On Monday, Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had expressed serious concern over the rising number of enforced disappearances in the federal capital and directed the interior secretary to take up the issue with the prime minister in order to devise a policy for protection of the fundamental rights of citizens.
If the state and the courts cannot protect the right to life of a citizen, then there is no reason for them to continue, remarked Justice Minallah while hearing a habeas corpus petition seeking Gondal's recovery after Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar told the court that the two police teams constituted to trace his whereabouts were clueless.
The habeas corpus petition was filed by Gondal’s mother, who is also a grandmother of four siblings, the eldest being 13 years old. The SECP official is stated to be the family’s sole bread-earner who supports his elderly parents, a wife and four children.
The IHC chief justice had directed the interior secretary to brief the prime minister and members of his cabinet regarding the "abysmal" state of law and order and the "obvious impunity against crime" within Islamabad's 1,400 square miles area. The secretary is supposed to submit a report regarding decisions taken by the federal government and measures taken in the instant case.