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Govt asked to list detention centres of agencies

October 05, 2012

PESHAWAR, Oct 4: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday directed the defence and interior ministries to produce lists of all detention facilities operated and maintained by intelligence agencies, including Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and intelligence wing of Frontier Corps, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal areas.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Shahjehan Khan Akhunzada took exception to the slow pace of recovery of the ‘missing persons’ and directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial police officer (PPO) and the Peshawar capital city police officer to form a special team of experts to probe cases of these persons and inform the bench about results on the next hearing on Oct 23.

The bench issued directions for the sharing of the order with the provincial home secretary, observing if no positive development took place in these cases, the court would be constrained to issue any strict order.

The bench conducted marathon hearing for many hours in around 65 habeas corpus petitions related to enforced disappearances.

Relatives of ‘missing persons’, including women and children, turned up in large numbers.

In most cases, the defence and interior ministries, on behalf of intelligence agencies operating under their jurisdiction, expressed ignorance about the whereabouts of missing persons.

The bench expressed displeasure over this state of affair and observed that there was no need of seeking any reply from them with sworn affidavits as on the face of it they had been providing wrong information to the court.

The bench directed a representative of the defence ministry, Wing Commander Irfan Ahmad, and a deputy secretary of interior division, Usman Ghani, to provide lists of detention centres operated by the intelligence agencies and if they had any problem in giving it in the open court they should provide it to the court secretly.

It was ordered that they should make it sure that whether these detention centres were duly notified or not as any detention centre which was not notified was illegal. The bench pointed out that under the Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation 2011 a detainee had to be shifted to the notified internment centre within 24 hours.

The chief justice observed that the federal and provincial governments had failed to play its constitutional duty of safeguarding life and liberty of individuals. He warned that if the government and the agencies had not been taking the issue seriously they would be forced to constitute a larger bench for passing a stringent order.

In one of the cases two minor brothers were allegedly picked up from a school in Bara Khyber Agency by the security forces on Jan 27, 2010. A petition was filed by their mother Shan Bibi.

However, standing counsel for the federal government Jamil Warsak informed the bench that both ISI and MI had expressed ignorance about them.

The chief justice observed that the agency education officer (AEO) of Bara, Khyber Agency, had stated on oath that the boys were picked up from the school.

He observed that the ages of the two detainees, Said Nazeem and Ijaz, would be around 14 and 13 years.

The bench rejected the reply field on behalf of ISI and MI and observed that keeping in view the statement of the AEO, it presumed that the boys were still in the custody of the agencies.

It directed the heads of ISI and MI to take the matter seriously, saying boys had been missing for over two and a half years.

The bench asked the representative of the defence ministry who supervised ISI.

Wing Commander Irfan said though ISI was under the defence ministry, it had not been sharing details of its operations with the ministry.

The chief justice observed that there should be a special cell in the defence ministry to monitor the activities of ISI as at least they should be answerable to someone.

“We protected these agencies from international onslaught. Despite repeated requests by the UN Working Group, I did not meet its members as we want to resolve the matter internally and do not want to internationalise it,” the chief justice observed.