The Peshawar High Court (PHC) issued a ‘last warning’ on Tuesday to spy agencies as well as the federal and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government, to wrap up the missing persons issue for once and for all.
The court termed it a long-standing issue which has overburdened the business of court, and ordered authorities to hold an apex committee meeting. The meeting is to categorise detainees into three groups – black (proven militants), grey (suspected) and white (held on suspicion) – if this is not done, the court stated, the matter will be decided in accordance with the law, which could mean declaring detention centres illegal.
Heading a division bench with Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, PHC Chief Justice (CJ) Dost Muhammad Khan said while hearing the missing persons cases that the non-serious attitude of authorities would force the court to declare detention centres contrary to law.
CJ Khan told Defence Deputy Secretary Wing Commander Irfan Ahmad that under the special law ‘Aid in Civil Power Regulation 2011’, the forces were bound to shift all those arrested to internment centres within 24 hours for interrogation.
“You are not following the regulations. (We are) giving you time to end the issue, if you fail to do so, be ready to face the music,” CJ Khan warned, adding the court would never compromise on fundamental human rights.
Ahmad told the bench that the defence ministry sympathised with the relatives of missing persons, adding that they were holding meetings and attending court proceedings in Islamabad, Balochistan and K-P and working under pressure.
He added that the defence ministry was not the only one collecting information against those involved in anti-state activities, and that people charged them in every missing persons case even though other agencies were involved in such data collection as well.
The court ordered the K-P chief secretary to convene a meeting of the apex committee which should be attended by the home secretary, the Fata additional chief secretary, sector commanders, filed commanders, spy agencies, the Frontier Corps (FC) and political authorities to resolve the issue.
The bench ordered that those involved in subversive activities and against whom evidence was available should be handed over into police custody, adding that those people against whom evidence was unavailable should be freed before December 4.
The court also issued a warning to the police to retrieve all those detainees handed over to the political administration by them and to either set them free or produce them before a local magistrate; otherwise, the PHC warned, action would be taken.
Meanwhile Major Farrukh of the FC informed the bench that one Fazle Karim has been shifted to internment centre Fort Slop in Khyber Agency’s Bara tehsil. He also informed the court that another detainee, Ziaul Islam, had reached home after safe release.
A total of 66 missing persons cases were enlisted to the cause list and adjourned till the next hearing on December 11.
Around 1,043 people have been shifted so far to around 35 internment centres set up in K-P, Fata, and the provincially administered tribal areas, whereas 850 people have returned home since the issue was taken up by the PHC last year.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2012.