The Supreme Court expressed dissatisfaction on the failure of all state institutions to aid the missing persons case — the agencies, federal and provincial governments all came under the chief justice’s scrutiny on Wednesday.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heading a three-judge bench, said: “It is the duty of the state to recover and produce the missing persons,” adding that, since it is alleged that they are criminals, they should be dealt with in accordance with the law. “It is the duty of all agencies and the police to recover and produce the missing persons before the court on July 9,” was his final warning.
In a short order pertaining to the Balochistan missing persons cases, the apex court not only directed the recovery of 93 people still missing but also called for a case to be registered against agencies accused of involvement in their disappearance.
Frontier Corps Inspector (FC IG) General Obaidullah Khattak was also present, and received a warning from the irked chief justice. The court reminded the IG that he had taken an oath as a member of the armed forces. In a thinly-veiled reference to army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief justice said he would call the “barraa bhai” (big brother) if Khattak continued to express helplessness over recovering abducted people.
Chief Justice Chaudhry informed the court that a man named Duran Khan had alleged that the FC was involved in the kidnapping of his brother, Abdul Maalik. A Quetta Sessions Judge was asked to probe the matter and submit a report. The court observed that an FC connection to the kidnapping could not be ruled out.
The court expressed frustration in its short order, saying it was unable to understand why the agencies’ were so helpless in recovering missing people.
Balochistan Interior Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Zehri came under the Supreme Court’s scrutiny as well, over the question of how he was granted bail in spite of allegedly being involved in the kidnapping of two people. The bench sought the bail record of the minister from a Sessions Judge in Quetta who had initially granted it, and asked the minister to appear in person on the next date of hearing. Zehri has been on bail for the last eight years. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that, according to Ayesha Bibi, the mother of two men who are missing, her sons are in the custody of the provincial minister.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi informed the bench that she would make efforts to recover abducted people and that she had submitted a report of the 93 people concerned to the interior ministry. The chief justice directed her to convene a meeting of the heads of all the agencies in her office and discuss the matter. “Ask them to find the missing persons, and if they don’t, take action against them,” he added.
The bench also pointed out to the attorney general that the high-level committee constituted by the prime minister to address the missing persons issue had submitted its report, but no practical steps had been taken.
Balochistan Home Secretary Naseemullah Bazai informed the court that the Balochistan government had decided to pay Rs0.4 million as compensation to the relatives of missing people found dead. The chief justice directed the secretary to give at least Rs1 million to the legal heirs. He further ordered that the amount should be paid within three days.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2012.