Tracing the disappeared: Tribunal under study for missing persons

Premier has asked the ministry of law to prepare a draft for new legislation.


Zahid Gishkori January 24, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The government is contemplating constituting a ‘tribunal’ to solve the issue of missing persons, government officials said.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has asked the Ministry of Law and Justice to prepare a draft for the legislation keeping in mind the rules and regulations of the Constitution, a senior official of the ministry informed The Express Tribune.

The legislation is likely to be made through the 29th parliamentary session, according to the officials. The parliament’s 28th session scheduled for today will also be discussing the issue of missing persons.

The Commission of Inquiry for Enforced Disappeared (CIED) sent 12-point recommendations to premier Gilani, and to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, suggesting a new legislation to tackled the issue.

The commission’s chairman Justice (retired) Kamal Mansoor Alam presented the report three weeks back.

“There should be laws for the agencies also; the laws in which a court shall not be deemed to affect the jurisdiction of a High Court in respect of any proceeding pending immediately before the day on which the armed forces start acting in aid of civil power,” Justice (retired) Nasira Iqbal, a member of CIED said.

However, former acting attorney general Shah Khawar believes that there is no need for the legislation. According to him, the Constitution’s Article 10 is clear regarding ‘safeguards as to arrest and detention’.

“No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as maybe, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice,” he said, while commenting on the jurisdiction of intelligence agencies to take any person into their custody.

Besides, Advocate Hashmat Habib, counsel for some missing persons in the Supreme Court, said the new legislation will be a futile attempt on behalf of the government to hush up the issue of missing persons.

Fareed Ahmad Khan, Director National Crisis Management Cell of the Ministry of Interior, however, said the commission’s recommendations will be of help in solving the issue of missing persons.

All three ministers of law and justice, interior and defence will coordinate to finalise the documentation, which will lead to a final draft for the legislation through the ministry of law, he elaborated.

It may mentioned here that the CIED was constituted by Islamabad on the directions of Chief Justice of Pakistan last year which took up the cases of more than 300 missing persons. The commission traced more than 134 persons while taking up the cases of more than 170 persons for their early tracing.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2011.

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