Govt told to dispel notions about forces in missing persons case

Published May 26, 2022
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah. – Photo: IHC website
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah. – Photo: IHC website

ISLAMABAD: As the armed forces are subordinate to the federal government under Article 245 of the Constitution, it is the government’s constitutional obligation to dispel the impression that state institutions are behind enforced disappearances, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) observed on Wednesday.

While hearing a missing persons case, the court asked the interior secretary to explain as to why proceedings should not be initiated against the present and previous chief executives and interior ministers for not protecting the liberty of citizens.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah directed the government to produce five missing persons or else the court would summon the incumbent and former interior ministers, as the enforced disappearance, prima facie, was a violation of the Constitution.

The court asked the interior secretary whether the former and incumbent presidents and governors sought annual reports on enforced disappearances.

Justice Minallah observed that since a former chief executive in his book “In the Line of Fire” had termed enforced disappearances a state policy, the government was required to dispel this impression.

Further hearing on the matter has been adjourned till June 17.

According to a report prepared by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances and submitted by the commission’s registrar to the IHC, only 3,284 or one-third of 8,463 missing citizens have returned home since March 2011 after their whereabouts were traced.

Besides, it said, 228 people were “reported to be dead in encounters, etc” and the “concerned police lodged FIRs on behalf of the state and law takes its own course”.

Also, 946 people were “reported to be confined in internment centres under Action (in Aid of Civil Powers) Regulations, 2011. Periodic meetings of internees with families are arranged by concerned quarters”, it said, adding that 584 people were reported to have been confined in jails as under trial prisoners on criminal and terrorism charges.

The report also noted that 1,178 cases had been found as “not of enforced disappearances” after a thorough investigation, because in these cases “missing persons have either gone on their own” or these cases related to “kidnapping for ransom or personal enmity”.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2022

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