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Apex court orders release of the missing

September 05, 2007


ISLAMABAD, Sept 4: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government in clear terms to ensure release of all missing people because incriminating evidence was available to establish that they were in the custody of intelligence agencies.

“In view of the fact that Hafiz Abdul Basit, Aleem Nasir and Hafiz Mohammad Tahir have been recovered, we have strong reasons to believe that the stand taken by the ministry of defence as well as the interior (ministry) that the missing people are not in the custody of intelligence agencies is incorrect,” a seven-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry observed.

The bench was hearing a petition of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and 48 other complaints relating to the missing people.

The court sought assistance of Attorney-General Malik Mohammad Qayyum to ensure production/release of the disappeared people whose names were on a list to be provided by Deputy Attorney-General Nahida Mehboob Ellahi.

At the last hearing, the court had ordered release of Abdul Basit and Aleem Nasir, a German national, and medical treatment for Imran Munir convicted of spying.

“If you want to see institutions survive then let the missing people be released,” the chief justice said. “This is the limit, we cannot shut our eyes and cannot repeat the same old exercise of going into individual cases through hearing after hearing,” he added.

The court also dropped hints to hand down some guidelines to discourage such acts in future and wondered why those involved in offences were not being tried and why the innocent were still being kept in custody.

On a request of the attorney-general that he needed some time to familiarise himself with the case, the court adjourned the proceedings for Sept 21.The adjournment dampened the hopes of Amna Masood Janjua who is spearheading the case of the missing in the hope of early release of her husband Masood Janjua. She broke into tears saying she needed to see her husband, missing since July 2005.

She was under the impression that the court would order recording of the statement of Imran Munir who in his diary he used to write during his detention days, had mentioned that a businessman from Rawalpindi, presumably Masood Janjua, was also in custody.

The chief justice tried to comfort her by assuring that whatever the court was doing was for her good.

On Tuesday, Hafiz Mohammad Tahir won his freedom. He said he had been handed over to police with a direction to depose before the court whatever he had been asked to say. Interestingly, sub-inspector Nazir Ahmed of the Samasatta police station, who produced Hafiz Tahir in the court, had no idea why had the man been handed over to him. He said a car had picked him from Zero Point and taken him to a house in Islamabad where Hafiz Tahir was handed over to him.

Hafiz Tahir, picked up on June 14, later told journalists that during his incarceration he was pressurised to divulge the whereabouts of his brother. He was never told in which case he was wanted.

The court also directed advocates Zulfikar Maluka and Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui to submit comprehensive affidavits of Aleem Nasir, Hafiz Abdul Basit and Hafiz Mohammad Tahir and ordered the authorities to let Hafiz Tahir walk out of the court as a free man.

About Shazia Mubashir, arrested in January 2004 for her alleged role in an attempt on the life of President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Dec 14, 2003, the court asked her to submit a bail application in the Anti-Terrorist Court where she was being tried.

“Prima facie, she is not in illegal detention,” the court held.

About Imran Munir, receiving medical attention in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, the court allowed his treatment in the hospital and ignored a request by advocate Mujeebur Rehman that the custody of Imran Munir be given to the military after the treatment because he, too, was facing a military court trial.