In response to pressure from the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to resolve the long-standing case of missing persons, a five-member inspection team visited earlier this week the Malakand internment centre, where hundreds of people are being held accused of ‘anti-state activity’.
The visit is part of a broader effort to not only examine their conditions, but to reduce the number of people held in covert detention – ie, bring those against whom there is tangible evidence to court and release those against whom there is no evidence.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Home and Tribal Affairs Department officials, on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the team paid a visit to the centre in order to file recommendations based on their information and observations on the health, conditions and the nature of the charges against detainees. The team comprised the special home secretary, the prisons inspector general, the internment centre in-charge – but also included two army officials. The job of the inspectors, according to the home department officials, was to divide the detainees into two groups.
“See we don’t say all (detainees) are militants but there are some people who confess to having been part of anti-state activities. Now they will be members of ‘group one’. It is clear that they will be tried in courts. But the job of the group is to search for evidence against those interned persons who deny taking part in anti-state activities,” an official said.
The officials also said that members of the second group, which consists of people ‘arrested on suspicion’, would be released on heavy surety bail bonds as per the instructions of the court. They added that secret agencies’ personnel were also willing to begin scrutiny of detained people and the conditions they were living in.
“As far as the court is concerned, I think we have been doing what it has ordered to resolve the issue, as people had been approaching courts and mostly filing complaints against secret agencies,” the official said. After the court verdict, 15 to 25 suspected militants are being shifted to different internment centres daily, according to the officials.
They also said most of the militants at the Malakand centre confessed to participating in militant activities and therefore did not ‘require an inquiry’. They clarified that, for those held only on suspicion, a double check was necessary.
Officials, however, were sceptical about giving detainees the benefit of the doubt. “It is very important to check the status of suspected militants as authorities don’t want to punish innocents – but let me tell you, anyone who has been arrested has either been a member of a militant group or a facilitator,” the official said. According to the source, 180 militants had been shifted to the Malakand internment centre so far – and the process is still underway.
Officials said that the reason for initiating and speeding up the process of shifting militants to internment centres and inspecting their living conditions was in order to help prepare a response to the PHC’s queries regarding missing persons. The next hearing is on June 26.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.
More in KP & FATAMan axes wife to death, injures three daughters