Missing persons: AAG pins hope on new chief secretary

What has the state done for the suffering families of the disappeared?.

Express August 18, 2011

KARACHI: The hearing of a petition seeking assistance and security for the families of missing persons who were allegedly turned over to the US authorities over the last decade was adjourned indefinitely by a division bench of the High Court of Sindh (SHC) on Wednesday.

Chief Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Imam Bux Baloch adjourned the proceedings as the Additional Advocate General (AAG) requested more time as he hoped that the new chief secretary would respond positively.

The petition was filed by the Human Rights and Civil Liberties Society of Pakistan against more than a dozen federal ministries. It seeks education, protection etc. for the wives, children and other relatives of Pakistani citizens who have been allegedly handed over to the US authorities by their Pakistani counterparts.

Nisar Mujahid, appearing for the NGO, maintained that all the ministries have shifted the burden on to one another and none of them have come forward to help the families who are under financial and social strain as their breadearners have been missing for years at a  stretch. Their daughters are waiting to get married, the children’s classmates keep away from them out of fear and their wives are suffering from mental distress.

The ministries named in the petition - interior, foreign, finance, social welfare - took refuge behind the Rules of Business of 1973, saying that providing assistance to the families of the affected persons was not in their purview.

Mujahid drew the attention of the bench towards one of its previous orders in which both the federal and provincial governments were asked to spell out and inform the bench of what they had done for the welfare of the affected families of missing persons.

On Wednesday AAG Sarwar Khan requested more time to acquire information and details of what steps had been taken. The bench put off the proceedings for a date to be fixed later by the office of the court.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.

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