ISLAMABAD, Oct 11: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on Thursday gave a concession to the government, allowing it to regularise the ‘disappearance’ of all the missing persons, but reiterated that the Supreme Court had substantial evidence that the people were in the custody of intelligence agencies.
“We are deliberately exercising restraint due to the national interest and, therefore, openly asking the government to regularise the custody of the missing persons,” the CJ observed, adding that the court would not be in a position to give the concession again.
At the last hearing, the CJ had warned of summoning the heads of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and other agencies if the missing people were not released.
The chief justice is heading a three-judge bench hearing pleas for recovery of the missing people.
Attorney-General Malik Mohammad Qayyum sought a meeting with the chief justice in his chamber to convey in private some sensitive information regarding the missing people, saying that he could not divulge it in the open court. The chief justice ignored the request.
The AG told the court that 37 more people had been traced, taking the number of traced people to 181 out of a total of 416 missing. The number of untraced people is 235.
Among those traced, 20 are from Punjab, 44 from Sindh, 23 from the NWFP, 90 from Balochistan and two from Islamabad.
Of the 235 untraced people, 177 are from Balochistan, 31 from Punjab, 12 from Sindh, 13 from the NWFP and two from Islamabad.
The progress was described by the court as unsatisfactory.
Defence Secretary Kamran Rasool, Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah and National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) Director-General Javed Iqbal Cheema were present in the courtroom.
The AG told the court that the government had been directed by the highest authority in the country to give priority to the matter and cooperate in finding the missing persons.
During the hearing, the court was also informed about Osama Nazir, also mentioned by President Pervez Musharraf in his book In the Line of Fire to be an explosives expert. It was informed that Mr Nazir was in the custody of Rawalpindi police but lodged in Taxila.
Advocate Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had invited the attention of the court about the man, who had been picked from Faisalabad on Eid day in 2004 and, according to Hafiz Abdul Basit who was released recently, he had developed tuberculosis and severe backbone problem because of which he was not in a position to move.
The court ordered proper medical treatment of the detainee.
The AG read out details about the traced persons, saying that some of them had been released, while a few others were either facing trials or had been kidnapped for ransom.
About Masood Ahmed Janjua, husband of Amina Masood Janjua who is spearheading a campaign for recovery of missing people, the AG assured the court that he was not in the custody of the ISI.
But the AG was shown the diary of Imran Munir, held by the military authorities on spying charges, in which he had mentioned the name of Mr Janjua during his custody with the ISI.
Amina Janjua requested the court that it was high time for chiefs of the ISI and the MI to be summoned.
Those from Punjab who have been traced are, Mohammad Shahid, Ansar Ali, Mohammad Hussain, Mohammad Owais, Sardar Pervez, Gorchani, Yasir Arafat (arrested under Explosives Act) and Mohammad Aziz (awarded death sentence); from Sindh, Mohammad Faisal Sami, Ali Haider Bugti, Mehmood Shahid, Luqhman alias Usman, Sher Mohammad Baloch, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch and Yassir Zahoor Dehlu; from the NWFP, Mufti Munir Shakir and Abdul Sattar, Abdul Malik and Abdul Raheem (author of a book about Guantanamo Bay), who are lodged in different jails; and from Balochistan, Murtaza Bugti, Noor Mohammad Marri, Mir Kazim Bugti, Mir Aghar Marri and Asad Usman, Rahim Baksh and Saleem Jan, the last two being in custody.
The court adjourned the hearing for Oct 29 with the hope that more people would be traced by then.