Missing persons: Enough, says court, let’s get answers

DG Rangers, IGP, home secretary to appear on Aug 26 in yet another case.


Express August 11, 2011

KARACHI: After restraining itself for months against indifferent attitudes and a defiance of its orders, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered the top three officials responsible for protecting citizens to appear in person over yet another missing person. It also decided to club together all such cases, while noting that law enforcement agencies are most often mentioned in them.

This action was prompted on Thursday when the division bench of Chief Justice Musheer Alam and Justice Imam Bux Baloch was hearing a constitutional petition filed by Muhammad Ameen, a villager of Jati, Thatta district, who went to court against the alleged illegal detention of his brother Taj Muhammad.

According to the petitioner, his maternal uncle was killed by men related to them and they had nominated the alleged killers.

On January 22, 2011, Taj Muhammad and his friend Ramzan were returning home after attending court when the accused men accompanied by some men in police uniform took him away. Ramzan was later released by his captors on January 24. He then narrated how he and the petitioner’s missing brother were kidnapped, tortured and threatened.

The petitioner then lodged a FIR after obtaining orders from a court of competent jurisdiction but his brother is still missing. The petitioner then went to the SHC.

When the petition came up for hearing, law officers and police officers, including the SSP and DSP of Thatta, denied having custody of the missing Taj Muhammad.

The court referred to an order it passed on July 21. In it, the judges had expressed concern and anguish over the increasing disappearances and had asked officials to come up with documented proof of what they had done to find them.

Invariably, in most of the petitions, allegations are levelled against the law enforcement agencies and in response to court notices, a “simplicitor denial” is filed. The plight of the families of missing persons is aggravated by the indifferent conduct of  the Home Secretary, Secretary of the ministry of interior and the heads of the law enforcement agencies. The directions to establish some mechanism to find missing persons has also fallen on deaf ears, the bench observed. And doing away with self restraint for the first time, it ordered personal appearances from Director-General of the Pakistan Rangers, the Inspector-General of Police in Sindh and the home secretary, at 11 am on August 26. The bench also ordered for the court’s office to fix all petitions on missing persons for that date.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2011.

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