SC seeks lasting fix for missing persons’ issue

Says court has its own limitations; can’t itself conduct searches for missing individuals

Jahanzeb Abbasi January 02, 2024
Justice Qazi Faez Isa. PHOTO: FILE


The country’s top judge has acknowledged the severity of the missing persons' issue while expressing optimism about the Supreme Court's ability to find a lasting solution. “Pakistan belongs to all of us, and we must collectively address these concerns. Blaming each other is futile; that approach has been exhausted. We aim to conclusively resolve the missing persons' problem,” stated Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJ) Qazi Faez Isa on Tuesday.

The CJ made these remarks while presiding over a three-member bench—also comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Mussarat Hilali—that addressed four petitions related to enforced disappearances, including alleged abductions of PTI leaders following the May 9 incidents. The court instructed all petitioners to detail the potential types of court orders that could be issued in this matter. It emphasized its commitment to resolve the issue but noted inherent limitations and constraints.

“We cannot conduct searches for missing individuals. Government institutions must handle necessary actions. This is not a political matter but a serious case requiring everyone’s responsibility for resolution. The issue of missing persons needs to be resolved systematically," he emphasized. Justice Isa observed that missing persons include a number of people who left their home to join jihadist outfits. He took exception to recruitment by militant organizations, adding that such recruitments and raising private armies was unimaginable in the world.

Read also: Don’t treat Baloch protesters as ‘enemies’

During the hearing, the court also raised the issue of violence against peaceful demonstrators from Balochistan in the federal capital.  It instructed Shoaib Shaheen, lawyer of one of the petitions, Atizaz Ahsan, to submit a separate application regarding this matter. Last week, Islamabad Police used force against a group of protestors—mostly women and children— who had marched on Islamabad to highlight the issue of Baloch missing persons. 

Later, the Islamabad High Court ordered authorities to release all the protesters rounded up during the crackdown. “Those participating in the sit-in were peacefully protesting, asserting their right to do so. The right to peaceful protest was upheld in the Faizabad sit-in case verdict,” the CJ said. Earlier, the bench removed the objection raised by the SC registrar office to the constitution petition filed by famous lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan.

In his petition, Ahsan highlighted the cases of PTI leaders—Farrukh Habib, Sadaqat Abbasi and Usman Dar—who went missing after May 9 incidents of vandalism and resurface in some cases after a lapse of many months only to renounce their party. Ahsan had also cited examples of the alleged abduction of former minister Sheikh Rashid and journalist Imran Riaz Khan and urged the court to declare that enforced disappearances were violative of the Constitution.

Read: Truth behind the disappearance of Baloch citizens

While conversing with lawyer Shoaib Shaheen, the CJ stated that the individuals mentioned in Aiztaz’s application are influential and significant figures; if they have any concerns, they should come forward themselves. “You have picked and chosen people in your petition. Also include those individuals as well who went missing during the PTI’s rule. If individuals related to a particular party bring up an issue, we will understand that the court is being politically exploited, and then we won't hear this case,” he said.

During the hearing, journalist Imran Riaz Khan was also mentioned. The CJ stated that when he took notice of the targeting of journalists, he was stopped from pursuing the matter. On August 20, 2021, a division bench comprising Justice Isa and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel took up an application moved by the Press Association of the Supreme Court, highlighting frequent incidents of harassment of journalists and summoned the chiefs of the Federal Investigation Agency and the capital’s police as well as the interior secretary.

However, a five-member larger bench led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial recalled the order on August 27, 2021, declaring that the chief justice of Pakistan was the sole authority to invoke or assume suo motu jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. “What was your (PTI) government's stance on violence against journalists? For us, all citizens are equal. It's not acceptable if you speak about the injustice meted out to your party members but remain silent when it's about others," the CJ said, addressing Shaheen.

Read  Missing person figures unverified: Domki

Shoaib Shaheen told the bench that former minister for human rights Shireen Mazari presented a bill to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in order to make enforced disappearances a punishable offense. “The National Assembly passed the bill but it went missing from the Senate,” he said. The CJ expressed astonishment at the disappearance of the bill in the Senate and stated that it is a serious accusation. He pointed out that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani was responsible for safeguarding the bill.

“You are levelling allegations against him (Sanjrani) but not making him a party in the case. Sanjrani became the Senate chairman through your (PTI’s) votes. Was any resolution moved in the upper house against the chairman after the disappearance of the bill,” Justice Isa asked.

The CJ also criticized the former human rights minister, Mazari, asking as to who could protect the rights of a missing person when he could not protect a piece of legislation. “In the world, there's a practice that those who cannot perform resign, but this practice hasn't arrived in Pakistan yet, “he said. The court later adjourned further until 11am Wednesday (today).



Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ