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SHC tells govt to help families of ‘missing persons’

February 01, 2013

A view of the Sindh High Court building. — Photo by Reuters

KARACHI, Jan 31: The Sindh High Court on Thursday directed the federal and provincial authorities to contact Baitul Maal and other funds-providing resources for seeking assistance to the dependents of the missing persons at least to the extent of subsistence allowance.

Expressing extreme displeasure over the apathy of the authorities to the lot of missing persons’ families, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam directed the Sindh chief secretary and home and law secretaries to file their respective comments and reports on the issue, and put off the hearing to Feb 21.

The bench was seized with the petition of Advocate Nisar A. Mujahid, a lawyer and chairman of the Human Rights and Civil Liberties Society of Pakistan, who sought the court’s direction for the rehabilitation and financial aid for families and children of the missing persons.

The court was irked by the reply filed on behalf of the director general of human rights ministry who showed inability to provide financial assistance to the affected families on the ground that “it may open a Pandora’s box and false claims are likely to be submitted”.

The court observed that at least there was nothing before the bench to show if the human rights ministry was contributing anything to society.

It went on to observe: “It is the duty of the state under the Constitution to protect life and property of any of its citizen and such responsibility is to be performed without hurting their ego. The response of DG is not at all inspiring.”

The bench directed the provincial government law officer to convey the “displeasure of the court to the chief secretary and the home secretary on this alarming issue”.

The bench ordered the provincial authorities to establish contact with Baitul Mal and other funds-providing resources available at their disposal to formulate mechanism to provide assistance at least to the extent of subsistence allowance.

The DG of the human rights ministry in his reply submitted that the Supreme Court had also taken up the matter of financial assistance to the family members of the missing persons and under its directions, a committee had been formed, comprising representatives of the HR ministry, interior ministry and Baitul Mal, which had finalised seven families for financial assistance. He stated that accordingly Baitul Mal was giving assistance to seven families on humanitarian grounds.

The petitioner submitted that 9/11 in the US had led to the war against terror with a large number of Al Qaeda suspects having been picked up by the US authorities in league and collusion with the governments of different countries.

He alleged that it had also been done in Pakistan and such matters had come to courts, but neither the detainees were produced in courts nor their whereabouts disclosed.

Advocate Mujahid stated that the families of those incarcerated persons had been suffering since the enforced disappearance of their loved ones.

He said their families were facing a financial crisis and they were also subjected to ostracism. He said the children of such captives faced bias from their schoolmates.

He further said the affected families faced financial constraints in getting their children married as non-governmental and social welfare organisations chose not to offer them any assistance.

Advocate Mujahid stated that Saifullah Paracha, a businessman, and his son Uzair Paracha had been picked up by US agencies from Bangkok and New York, respectively, in 2003.

He referred to a SHC judgment on a petition filed by Mr Paracha`s wife and stated that the court on Sept 9, 2003, had directed the foreign secretary “to take all necessary steps to protect the interest and welfare of the citizens in accordance with law”.

The petitioner stated that the court again in Aug 2006 had directed the foreign secretary to keep the family of the detainee and the court informed through a quarterly report of any effort and progress in securing Paracha`s return.

Similarly, he said, Majid Khan was arrested in Karachi and the SHC on a petition against his detention had directed the foreign secretary to give a periodical report of the efforts being made by the federal government for securing his return and other such detained persons. However, the petitioner said the respondents were reluctant to comply with the orders of the court.