The Peshawar High Court took a softer tone on Thursday, saying some individuals and not all personnel of security agencies are involved in enforced disappearances.
However, the proceedings took an interesting turn culminating in the court summoning Peshawar’s top intelligence official and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa inspector-general for prisons after a ‘missing’ person identified a police officer who had picked him from outside a jail in Mardan and allegedly handed him over to security agency personnel.
Hearing various habeas corpus petitions filed by heirs of missing persons, which claim that security agencies are illegally detaining their relatives, the court asked the Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters to take notice of the matter and constitute a team to conduct an inquiry.
During the hearing, a PHC divisional bench, headed by Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, was informed that one Mir Muhammad Arshad had reached home after he was kept in illegal detention for 38 months.
Arshad, who appeared before the court, said he was picked up by the police from the Hashatnagri area and was allegedly handed over to security agencies which drove him to an undisclosed location. “How long were you interrogated for?” asked Justice Mian Fasihul Mulk. “For the first three days only,” Arshad replied.
“He was released and wasn’t punished. Isn’t this the worst treatment? What kind of treatment do they [who picked up Arshad] deserve?” the chief justice asked Deputy Attorney-General Iqbal Mohmand.
The CJ said that the armed forces have offered countless sacrifices and continue to do so, asking senior official to thoroughly investigate the matter. “Some individuals are involved in picking up people without the approval of the headquarters and are becoming a reason for disgracing the institution (security agencies),” he said.
“It is more essential to bring those individuals (personnel of security agencies) under control and channelise their functions and anyone who defies orders (of senior officials of the armed forces) will be court-martialled under the Army Act,” the CJ ordered.
“The action should be taken at the earliest and must be visible to the public. A copy of the order should be sent to the ISI DG, federal defence secretary and chief of the armed forces,” the chief justice said.
In an interesting turn of events, a former missing person, Zahid, identified before the court that SHO Chura, Mardan, Nihar Ali, who was also present in court, was the one who had picked him up along with his brother Sufaid Shah immediately after they were bailed out from the Mardan District Jail.
The pointation came as the court heard a petition filed on behalf of Sherzada. The PHC summoned the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa inspector-general of prisons to explain the matter. “This was the SHO who picked us up and shifted us to the Cantt Police Station from where my brother and I were separated and shifted to an undisclosed location,” Zahid said, adding that he has been released but his brother Sufaid remains ‘missing’.
“From the facts [presented before the court], there is a clear link that both [Zahid and Sufaid] were picked up by security agencies. The ISI sector commander for Peshawar is directed to appear before the court in person at the next hearing on May 10,” the CJ ordered, and added that the court has deliberately been kept in the dark.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2012.
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