ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday observed that the missing persons’ commission had failed to cope with the menace of enforced disappearances and asked the attorney general to take steps to prosecute officials responsible for abducting citizens.

During the hearing of identical petitions filed by the heirs of missing persons, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances headed by retired Justice Javed Iqbal (who is also chairman of the National Accountability Bureau) has failed to recover the missing persons and this only added to the misery of the aggrieved families.

Attorney General (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan deliberated upon the court’s proposal to hold the chief executive responsible for enforced disappearances. He told the court that during dictatorship there might be tacit approval of such acts but elected prime ministers would not approve such highhandedness of any state institution.

Justice Minallah asked the attorney general to suggest measures to end the impunity because those who feel themselves above the law take away liberty of citizens.

Mr Khan said until and unless the official who abducted a citizen was not given exemplary punishment, enforced disappearances would not end.

Justice Minallah pointed out the pending petitions which suggested that the uniformed personnel allegedly picked up two students from outside International Islamic University and in one instance an official of a state agency allegedly picked up a young man from Bahria Town and had been identified and asked the AGP to take these as a test case. He urged the government to show its bona fide and proceed against the officials concerned.

The IHC chief justice, without naming journalist Mateeullah Jan, remarked that a journalist was abducted from the territorial jurisdiction of the IHC and despite the fact that the incident was recorded on the CCTV, the police remained clueless about the abductors.

Likewise, an official of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan said after he was freed by the abductors that he went to the northern areas for picnic.

Advocate Khawaja Inamur Rahim told the court that under the Rules of Business, the prime minister, being boss of the state agencies, is responsible for enforced disappearances.

He pointed out that the military authorities have shared the details of the suspects detained in the internment centres of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the Supreme Court.

He suggested that the list of detainees could be shared with the relatives of the missing persons so that they could trace their loved ones.

Mr Rahim told the court that as per official statistics, 8,279 citizens had gone missing since 2011.

The hearing was adjourned for three weeks.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2022

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