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ISLAMABAD, April 20: In a step-by-step approach, the Supreme Court on Friday summoned the secretaries of the defence and interior ministries and the head of the government’s Crisis Management Cell to appear before it next week for a hearing in the case of missing persons. The heads of the intelligence agencies would be called later, the court said.

Heading a three-member bench, Justice Javed Iqbal made known his intention to call chiefs of intelligence services by observing that the situation had become very sensitive, but asked to let the court examine the issue step by step. He then summoned the top government officials and adjourned the matter till April 27.

The bench has taken up petitions of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and a former PPP senator, Farhatullah Babar, along with complaints of Amina Masood Janjua, Saqlain Mehdi, Aisha, Abdul Ghaffar, Amtul Hafiz, Fatima, Mohammad Ikram Alvi, Arif Abbasi and Syed Babar.

On Friday, Deputy Attorney-General Raja Irshad told the court that he could not ‘render further assistance’ because the interior ministry had not submitted statements despite assurances.

At the last hearing, the court was assured that its directives to the federal government to furnish a comprehensive statement on each complaint and the HRCP petition would be complied with on Friday.

“I have sentiments too, as I am a father, husband and a brother and, therefore, cannot stand the mental agony of the families of the missing people,” he said.

The application of Ms Janjua pertains to remaining 10 missing people, including her husband, out of a list of 43 people whose unexplained disappearance for two years is believed to have been caused by their suspected links to Al Qaeda or other militant outfits. The HRCP petition deals with 141 people who disappeared mainly from Balochistan.

Mr Babar also urged the Supreme Court to ask the government to produce a copy of the law under which intelligence agencies operated so the issue of disappeared people could be examined in its correct perspective.

It was necessary, he said, because the parliament had denied even a copy of the law saying the issue was sensitive.Asma Jehangir, the HRCP chief, urged the court to summon officials of the intelligence services because, according to her, people were working under the threats of the agencies.

Ms Janjua recalled that in December, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had directed intelligence services – the Inter Services Intelligence, the Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau – to send their representatives to the court and answer questions regarding the missing. Five hearings had taken place since then without any progress, she lamented.

“What is the point if this court has no control over these agencies,” she said, adding that the court was adjourning the matter week after week.

Justice Iqbal, however, assured relatives of missing people that the court would take every possible step to minimise their grievance. “Your confidence in the court will never be shattered and betrayed.”

Every institution in Pakistan was answerable to the Supreme Court and nobody was above the law, Justice Iqbal observed, but said certain jihadi outfits were also involved in the disappearance as they lured young men by convincing them to wage a holy war.