ISLAMABAD, March 26: The Supreme Court observed on Monday that the controversy regarding missing people should be swiftly resolved, and stressed that the premier intelligence agencies should be answerable to court even if they are not accountable to any authority.
"We have to determine who detained these missing persons, and under which authority," Justice Javed Iqbal observed, adding that the court also wanted to know whether the authorities that picked them were answerable to anyone, and if not, they were certainly answerable to this court.
Justice Iqbal was heading a three-member bench that took up a petition of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) along with the complaints of Amina Masood Janjua, Saqlain Mehdi, Aisha, Abdul Ghaffar, Amtul Hafiz, Fatima, Mohammad Ikram Alvi, Arif Abbasi and Syed Babar. All the 11 human right cases concern disappeared persons.
The application of Ms Janjua pertains to the remaining 10 persons, including her husband, out of a list of 43 missing persons whose unexplained disappearance for the last two years is believed to have been caused by their suspected links to Al Qaeda or other outfits. The HRCP petition deals with 141 persons who disappeared mainly from Balochistan.
The court directed the federal government to furnish a comprehensive statement on each of the complaints and the HRCP petition in two weeks. The court will take up the matter again on April 10.
Justice Iqbal during the hearing observed that no agency was above the law and the constitution and that the Supreme Court would play its constitutional role by implementing all powers conferred upon it but needed some time in this regard.
"Responsibility will be fixed and every responsible person will be called in the court to honour all constitutional rights guaranteed to the citizens," Justice Iqbal observed.
At the outset, Deputy Attorney General Raja Irshad told the court that he needed some evidence or clues so that the long arms of the law could reach to rescue the missing persons, but feared that agencies like the Military Intelligence (MI) and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were not accountable to anyone.
The court rejected his request, saying it was for the government to find some clues but noted with concern apparent lack of coordination between different government departments.
The court was of the view that the defence ministry should be impleaded as a respondent in the case because certain agencies were only answerable to it.
At the same time, it also made it clear that it had to be careful while dealing with the instant matter as it would not be wise to blame the agencies for every disappearance since many people, who earlier believed to be picked up by the agencies, were later found to be in the Charkhi Pul Prison in Afghanistan.
When Amina Masood recalled that Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had also directed the representatives of intelligence agencies to be present before the court during previous hearings, the court observed that it would let implement all orders as these were the orders of the Supreme Court.
The court observed that it focussed more on the recovery of missing people for the time being rather than on charges against them.
Senior Advocate Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, representing the HRCP, asked the court to investigate the causes of missing persons either by itself or by appointing a commission. He said that despite assurance before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the government had not yet done any investigations.
"Nothing has worried me more in his 79 years of experience than this case," he observed and said the country had become a police state.
The mother of a missing person, Atiqur Rehman, pleaded that her son was picked up by the agencies on the night of his wedding.