Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed that there are only 55 people who are ‘missing’ and that 6,000 is a highly exaggerated figure for the number of missing persons, during a hearing of the missing person’s case at the Supreme Court on Monday.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal directed him to ensure the recovery of missing persons by monitoring the activities of intelligence agencies. Malik, flanked by provincial chiefs of police, appeared before the bench to brief the court on the steps taken to trace missing persons.
The apex court observed that the government has failed to trace missing persons. Target killings continue unabated, especially in Balochistan where bullet-ridden bodies are recovered practically every day. Malik submitted that Balochistan is a victim of international conspiracy. The court, however, ignored that assertion.
“No one is above the law, not the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), not the Military Intelligence, nor the interior minister,” observed Justice Javed Iqbal.
Malik persistently requested the court for an in-camera briefing. He claimed of the 55 people missing, only 15 cases are chronic. He said Baloch leaders would be contacted for reconciliation on the apex court’s advice.
“Your presentation was good but the apex court and the missing persons’ families have yet to see results. Not a single chronic case has been decided so far,” said Justice Iqbal.
Asma Jahangir, President Supreme Court Bar Association, said she would like answers to three questions. When she asked the first question, “In pursuance of which law is the ISI conducting its operations?” Justice Javed Iqbal observed he has been asking the same question for the past three years. “Why did the commission comprising three former judges of the Supreme Court recommend that missing persons be tried in military courts? Which law are Rehman Malik and the secret agencies following to conduct raids on the houses of jihadis’ families?” she asked.
Laws should be framed to define the scope of the ISI, Justice Iqbal remarked.
The Supreme Court also directed Interior Minister Rehman Malik to mobilise Pakistan’s foreign missions to provide assistance to Pakistani prisoners abroad during the hearing of the missing persons’ case on Monday.
President Karzai has given a favourable response for the release of Pakistani prisoners in Afghan jails, Malik said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2011.