Govt responsible for enforced disappearances: IHC

Published January 20, 2021
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday observed that the prime minister and his cabinet were responsible for ‘enforced disappearances’ in the federal capital. — IHC website/File
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday observed that the prime minister and his cabinet were responsible for ‘enforced disappearances’ in the federal capital. — IHC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday observed that the prime minister and his cabinet were responsible for ‘enforced disappearances’ in the federal capital, and sought a list of prime ministers who held the office since 2015.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah while hearing a petition filed by Nasreen Begum, mother of Imran Khan, who has been missing since 2015, held that “the ultimate responsibility of law and order in the 1,400 square mile area of Islamabad Capital Territory is that of the Federal Cabinet.”

The court noted that “Prime Minister and members of the Federal Cabinet would become responsible for failure on part of the State to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizens because the buck stops at the top. Enforced disappearance is the most heinous crime and intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution. The worst victims of an enforced disappearance are the loved ones of the citizen who goes missing. Their pain and agony is indeed unimaginable,” Justice Minallah remarked.

Chief justice seeks list of prime ministers who held office since petitioner’s son went missing in 2015

“Who should be held responsible when the alleged disappearance takes place from Islamabad? The buck stops at the top. Why the Federal Government i.e. the worthy Prime Minister and members of the Federal Cabinet may not be declared to be responsible for alleged enforced disappearances from the capital territory? Why in the instant case this Court should not declare every Prime Minister and member of the Cabinet responsible who have held the respective public offices from the date when the petitioner’s son went missing till his whereabouts have been traced or at least a satisfactory explanation is given for the latter’s absence,” he observed.

A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) after concluding investigations had formed an opinion that it was a case of ‘enforced disappearance’.

The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances is also treating the case as ‘enforced disappearance’.

Justice Minallah noted that the security, well-being and safety of a citizen is a constitutional obligation of the state.

Citing a Supreme Court’s judgment, the IHC chief justice stated that the apex court had held that the federal government means the prime minister and members of the federal cabinet.

The alleged disappearance had taken place in 2015 and till date the state has failed in tracing the whereabouts of the petitioner’s son.

“As a corollary, the latter i.e. the prime minister and members of the federal cabinet would become responsible for failure on part of the state to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizens.”

The court asked the attorney general to submit a list of prime ministers and members of the cabinet who held the offices from 2015 till the next date of hearing.

The attorney general is also expected to inform the court why exemplary costs may not be imposed on those who may be declared responsible for the failure of the state to give a satisfactory explanation for disappearance of the petitioner’s son.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2021

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