• Prime minister to be asked about actions taken against those involved in enforced disappearances
• CJ says formation of committee on missing persons ‘appreciable, but not enough’

ISLAMABAD: While directing the federal government to trace five missing persons by Septem­ber 9, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday warned that in case of failure to do so, the prime minister will have to appear before the court in person.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah passed the order while hearing petitions seeking the recovery of missing persons.

In case of failure, remarked Justice Minallah, “the worthy Prime Minister shall appear in person to justify the failure of the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations.”

The prime minister will also inform the court regarding actions taken against those public functionaries involved in enforced disappearances, he added.

At the onset of the hearing, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Kayani sought an adjournment of proceedings as the attorney general was hospitalised, thus unable to assist the court.

While referring to the previous court order for current and ex-interior ministers to appear in court, he said that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had requested an exemption as he had to attend the cabinet meeting.

However, Justice Minallah observed that the interior minister had failed to comply with the court order.

He remarked that the petitions have been pending for a long time and the court has exercised utmost restraint to allow the institutions to demonstrate their commitment to recover or trace the missing citizens.

Justice Minallah said the matter was referred to former prime minister Imran Khan and his cabinet. However, their response “was not what ought to have been expected from the chosen representatives.”

The court noted that the current government’s decision to constitute a committee on this issue was “appreciable but not enough.”

The IHC chief justice said enforced disappearances were the worst form of abuse of the state’s power and violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

“It is indeed the most grave and intolerable form of torture suffered by the persons who have been subjected to enforced disappearances but more-so for their loved ones. They are subjected to unimaginable pain and suffering besides violating the inviolability of their dignity.”

The court noted the executive has failed to fulfil its obligations to dispel the presumption that enforced disappearance is an undeclared and tacit policy of the state.

The IHC chief justice observed that the joint investigation team in several cases has declared the untraceable citizens were victims of enforced disappearance.

The amici curiae in the case, former Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman Abid Saqi, chairperson of NGO Defence of Human Rights Amina Masood Janjua, and PPP leader Farhatullah Babar affirmed that the prime minister and the cabinet is responsible to recover the missing persons.

They suggested summoning the prime minister to explain the government’s failure to recover the missing citizens.

The court also criticised the role of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances headed by former NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal, adding that the commission aggravated the agony and pain of the victims’ families.

On May 30, the IHC had directed the federal government to serve notices on former president Musharraf and all successive prime ministers, including incumbent premier Shehbaz Sharif, for following an “undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances”.

Justice Minallah also said if the missing persons were not recovered, nor demonstrable actions were taken by the federal government, the current and former ministers of interior shall appear in person to explain why the petitions might not be decided and exemplary costs imposed upon them for the unimaginable agony and pain suffered by the petitioners.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022

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