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ISLAMABAD, Aug 20: The Supreme Court on Monday sent a clear signal to the country’s powerful intelligence agencies by telling a top investigating officer to produce a man he had arrested and handed over to the Military Intelligence, or else go to jail.

“You should bring the missing person as you had illegally handed over the custody of Hafiz Abdul Basit,” the court told the former additional inspector general of police Tariq Pervez, who now heads the Federal Investigation Agency.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, Justice Nasirul Mulk and Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed was hearing petitions of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and 48 other complaints moved by Ms Amina Masood Janjua, Saqlain Mehdi, Aisha, Abdul Ghaffar, Amtul Hafiz, Fatima, Mohammad Ikram Alvi, Arif Abbasi, Syed Babar and others for the recovery of the missing people.

Attorney-General Malik Mohammad Qayyum pleaded before the court to grant one more day to approach MI authorities and determine the whereabouts of Abdul Basit. “I tried my level best to contact the MI chief, but he was in a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf. But I will contact him to find about the missing.”

The Faisalabad police had arrested Abdul Basit in January 2004 and handed him over to Major Amir of the MI near the Rawalpindi Toll Plaza after recording his statement. Mr Basit’s custody had been transferred on instructions of Tariq Pervez.

“What’s happening in this country is unfortunate,” Justice Fayyaz said, adding: “They have made mockery of the law. We are at a loss to understand what our intelligence agencies are doing. Where are the Constitution and the constitutional guarantees?”

The chief justice made it clear that in its preliminary exercise, the court was concerned only with the release of the disappeared people but at a later stage it would dilate upon giving an authoritative judgment on legal authority under which intelligence agencies, MI and the Inter Services Intelligence, operated and detained people and to whom they were accountable.

“We are not asking for immediate release of the disappeared, but want legal proceedings according to the law by regularising the arrest of people who had later gone missing,” the chief justice said.

The Supreme Court also summoned Dr Imran Munir, who had been sentenced to eight-year imprisonment by the Field General Court Martial for spying against Pakistan and is currently lodged in the Mangla cantonment under military custody.

The court sought production of Dr Munir for recording his statement when complainant Ms Amna Masood Janjua produced handwritten pages from his diary stating that during his captivity in a secret detention cell he had come across a few inmates, one of whom was a businessman from Rawalpindi, Masood Janjua, missing since July 30, 2005. The government is denying claims of having the custody of Mr Janjua.

The court waited for Dr Munir till 5.30pm when it was told that he was on his way from Mangla, but adjourned the proceedings for Tuesday with a direction to lodge him at the Adiyala jail for the night for production in the court in safe custody.

The AG told the court that on his intervention and appeal, retrial of Dr Munir had been ordered by setting aside his conviction. Dr Munir will have the services of his counsel.

Dr Munir’s legal counsel Mujeeb Pirzada argued that his client was a civilian and had gone missing after developing a personal dispute with Brig Mansoor Sheikh of the ISI.

The government had denied in the Lahore High Court in 2006 that Dr Munir was in custody, but had later admitted that he had been arrested on spying charges.

The AG denied that any officer named Brig Mansoor was serving in the ISI and alleged that Dr Munir was working for the Indian intelligence agency RAW.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Asma Jehangir claimed that Dr Munir had married an Indian woman in Malaysia, but also had “matrimonial relations” with a niece of Brig Mansoor. The two women had a quarrel and to settle the matter, Dr Munir went to Brig Mansoor for a dinner. He had since been missing, Ms Jehangir said and termed it a case of illegal detention.

At this, the chief justice observed that if the court started reviewing his cases, it would embarrass many.

The court also summoned for Tuesday Saleem Baloch, Jan Mohammad and Munir Ahmed Mengal, who had been released recently.

It also summoned Col Zikiria of the ISI after it was informed about Aleem Nasir, a German national missing since July 18. He had been picked up at the Lahore airport for allegedly possessing 25kg of gemstones.

At this, Justice Raja Fayyaz observed that things done by police were now being done by intelligence agencies.

When a petition regarding Aleem Nasir was filed, the government denied that he was in the custody of intelligence agencies, saying he was involved in some litigation in the NWFP.

His mother Nazir Begum and brother Waseem Nasir told the court they had a meeting with Col Zikiria somewhere in Sector I-8. Col Zikiria had arranged the meeting after requesting Col Javed Iqbal Lodhi of the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC).

The court also directed Col Lodhi to contact Col Zikiria and ask him to appear in the court. When Col Lodhi failed to do so, Brig Javed Iqbal Cheema, the head of the NCMC, assured the court that he would contact the person and inform the court.

Ms Jehangir told the court that of 173 missing people, mainly from Balochistan, 78 had been found and 95 were still missing.

She also questioned under which laws were the spy agencies operating and picking up and interrogating people in heinous fashion. And, she said, whenever someone was released he was threatened not to approach the HRCP, press or courts, otherwise he would face consequences.

The court adjourned several complaints for Tuesday with a direction to Deputy Attorney-General Nahida Mehboob Ellahi to make a concise statement of the missing people and present it in the court.