Missing poet Ahmed Farhad Shah in Kashmir police custody, IHC told

Published May 29, 2024
A file photo of missing poet Ahmed Farhad Shah. — DawnNewsTV
A file photo of missing poet Ahmed Farhad Shah. — DawnNewsTV

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) was informed on Wednesday that missing poet and journalist Ahmed Farhad Shah was in the custody of Dhirkot police in Azad Kashmir.

The development came as IHC senior puisne judge Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani resumed hearing a petition seeking the missing Kashmiri poet’s recovery.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had called for the immediate release of Shah, who had been allegedly abducted from his home on May 15.

A petition had been filed by Shah’s wife in the IHC the same day, requesting that he be found and produced before the court and to identify, investigate and prosecute those responsible for his disappearance.

On May 16, Justice Kayani had summoned a report from the defence secretary on the alleged role of intelligence agencies in the poet’s disappearance.

Last week, the judge had called on intelligence agencies to shed the label of culpability in abductions. Upon seeking an explanation from the defence secretary by 3pm the same day, the court had been informed that Shah was not in the custody of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

In a subsequent hearing, Justice Kayani ordered Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan to recover the missing poet within four days, which he took “full responsibility” of.

During the last hearing, Justice Kayani had issued a detailed order containing multiple questions on missing persons. While he had also ordered live streaming of all missing persons cases, today’s case was not broadcast live.

The judge had also summoned the sector commanders of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI), the director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and the defence, law and interior secretaries today.

Today, AGP Awan, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Munawar Iqbal Duggal and the law minister appeared before the court. Senior journalist Hamid Mir, appointed as a judicial assistant, and petitioner’s counsel Advocate Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir were also in attendance.

AGP Awan informed the court that Shah was in police custody and presented the police report to the court. Justice Kayani remarked, “By arresting [him] near Kohala bridge, the jurisdiction has been made of that place.”

The court then directed Mazari to consult with Shah’s family and apprise the court by Friday.

The first information report (FIR), a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, was filed against Shah at the Dhirkot police station at around 8am, with the time of the incident just an hour earlier.

The FIR was registered under section 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint of Kohala checkpost in-charge Shaukat on the state’s behalf.

According to the FIR, at around 7am today, a “carry van”, with registration number 4368-RIF, was coming from Kohala chowk when it was stopped at the checkpost.

Upon asking the driver for his identity card, a “passenger in the van misbehaved and used harsh language” against checkpost officials, and refused to comply with the checking protocol.

The passenger was then asked to come out of the vehicle and upon inquiring about his details, he stated his name as Ahmed Farhad Shah, the complaint added.

It further quoted Shah as saying that he was heading to his ancestral village in Azad Kashmir from Rawalpindi. The FIR then stated that he had attempted to interfere with officials’ duties.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, AGP Awan informed the IHC that Shah was in police custody following his arrest and presented the Dhirkot station’s report before the court.

Justice Kayani remarked, “By arresting [him] near Kohala bridge, the jurisdiction has been made of that place.”

“No one has any enmity with [intelligence] agencies. We only say that work in accordance with the law,” he added.

Tarar then highlighted that the country’s “children, citizens and security officials are being martyred”, and that teenagers were made to be involved in suicide blasts. “The Parliament should also play its role,” the law minister stressed.

Justice Kayani said, “We believe that the institutions would get themselves used to working within the law. The court does not need to break the cover of an undercover agent; each office has a working process.

“If intelligence agencies pick up someone, what is the process for it?” the judge asked.

Recalling that the AGP had spoken about “waving a white flag” at the last hearing, the judge said, “I believe that there is no fight between the institutions.

“We had raised a few questions, the answers to which are yet to come. We have taken oath to protect fundamental rights,” he added.

To this, Tarar replied, “We have also taken oath; our intentions should not be doubted either. The Constitution is preceding, wherein each individual’s duties are specified.”

He urged the judge to dispose of the petition regarding the missing poet, adding that the court’s questions could be clubbed with another similar case.

Justice Kayani remarked, “No one is against the Pakistan Army. A few people’s wrong attitude causes damage to the entire institution.

“The ones standing on the other side are not against the army either,” he said, referring to the petitioner. “Journalists, political activists and politicians have suffered the most,” the judge observed.

At this point, journalist Mir informed the court he had submitted his written response as a judicial assistant.

“Media persons were also picked up and even murdered. We understand the miseries of missing persons,” he said.

Regarding the ban on TV reporting of court proceedings, Mir argued that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) could not place a ban on reporting judges’ remarks under its code of conduct.

The senior anchor recalled that a bill had been introduced in the Parliament, whose implementation he said would have yielded better results. Tarar responded that a House had suggested amendments to the bill, in which case a joint session needed to be summoned.

Here, Justice Kayani remarked that the media had increased awareness among the people.

However, he noted, there was “a lot being circulated on social media, unfortunately”. “I do not use social media, hence I do not care. Those who do see are pained by it,” the judge said.

Justice Kayani then directed Mazari, the petitioner’s counsel, to consult with the poet’s family and then apprise the court by Friday, following which the petition would be disposed of.

Family meets Shah

The poet’s family was finally able to have a meeting with him in Muzaffarabad’s Saddar police station. “Apparently he is alright,” Liaquat Hussain, Shah’s brother, confirmed to Dawn.com.

 A picture of Kashmiri poet and journalist Ahmed Farhad Shah (C) meeting with his younger brother (L) and wife and son.
A picture of Kashmiri poet and journalist Ahmed Farhad Shah (C) meeting with his younger brother (L) and wife and son.

The family also released a picture of the meeting to the media, showing Shah with his wife, son and younger brother Imran Shah.

Earlier, talking to reporters, the poet’s wife had alleged that when the family reached the police station, it was told by an official that Shah was not in their custody.

She said the family was not provided with the FIR copy either.

“Still we have no information about his whereabouts, which is very distressing. If the police have obtained his physical remand, he should be in their possession. If he is not with them, then are the police covering up for the agencies?” she had asked.

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