Enforced disappearances: SC seeks list for taking action against officials

Apex court turns down call for setting up a tribunal for the recovery of missing persons.

Qaiser Zulfiqar January 28, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court directed on Thursday offices of the registrar of the apex court and the attorney-general to prepare a list of missing persons known to be in the custody of spy agencies or police so that the court can order criminal proceedings against relevant officials.

The court also turned down a Judicial Commission’s suggestion for constituting a tribunal for the recovery of missing persons, observing that the apex court itself would hear the cases and ensure their recovery.

Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, who presided over a three-member bench, observed that the government appears to be helpless before the spy agencies.

The court stated that the November 3, 2007, emergency and PCO were also linked with the missing persons’ cases.

Justice Khosa said the issue had become very sensitive in Balochistan because intelligence agencies officials believed that they were securing Pakistan by kidnapping people, but in fact they were damaging the country’s interests.

The court also observed that, according to the Judicial Commission’s report, 290 persons had been traced, and 78 of them had been recovered from the custody of various agencies.

Citing the Judicial Commission’s report, the court said that it had also recommended to the government to pay compensation to the families of people who had been illegally detained.

“No one is above the law. Illegal disappearances are fast leading us towards anarchy,” said Justice Fayyaz. He also questioned the logic of keeping such “lofty agencies that failed to collect evidence regarding the disappeared persons”.

“It seems that we have become slaves of disobedient  persons as it is the duty of parliamentarians to take notice of the missing persons because they have all taken oath to protecting the Constitution,” Justice Raja Fayyaz observed.

In pursuance of the court order, secretaries of the ministries of interior and defence appeared before the court, but the bench noted the absence of Attorney-General Maulvi Anwarul Haq.

The presence of the attorney-general was needed in view of his earlier submission before the court to specify reasons for wanting to omit specific lines from the Inquiry Commission’s report before making it public.

The court noted that the “sensitivity” of no such lines and paragraphs had been pointed out yet.

Additional Attorney-General KK Agha insisted that intelligence agencies were engaged in fighting forces “directly or indirectly threatening the integrity and solidarity of the country, both internally and externally”. He said that their efforts “are commendable”.

The court said that it has been observed that the tribunal may likely be established for further investigating the matter. The court noted: “In our estimation, it will not be fruitful in view of the submission made by the other side that the horrible experience of picking up persons by intelligence agencies, with or without police knowledge, is still going on.”

Later the court adjourned the case till Friday (today).

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th,  2011.


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