The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday ordered secret agencies to submit an affidavit if they claim a ‘missing’ person is not in their custody.
A PHC division bench comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Musarrat Hilali issued these orders while hearing 248 habeas corpus petitions filed by relatives of missing persons. The agencies, however, insisted 108 people were not in their custody.
On July 4, the PHC warned criminal cases could be registered against intelligence agencies personnel deployed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the tribal areas if missing persons are found in their custody.
On Tuesday, the bench expressed concern over the recovery of bodies, apparently of those earlier declared missing. “When the court presses hard for the recovery of missing persons, they (missing persons) are recovered in gunny sacks,” said Justice Miankhel.
“People go missing for years and are later recovered dead. Go to the general public and see what their sentiments are,” Justice Miankhel remarked. He also asked Group Captain Irfan about the current situation of the 248 petitioners.
According to Irfan, the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) have submitted reports and denied taking into custody the missing persons noted in 108 petitions. A ground check on the rest is underway and as soon as they receive a reply, the court will be informed, he added.
“Sir, 12 to 14 intelligence agencies are working on this and it takes time to ask each agency about each missing person,” argued Irfan. However, the bench observed if the agencies want, they can overcome the situation within a day.
Justice Miankhel reminded the group captain the law protects the agencies legally, but does not bar the judiciary from registering cases against agencies’ personnel.
The court was informed four of the missing people have been sent to internment centres, including three to Lakki Marwat and one to the internment centre Pythom in Swat. Three others have reached home.
The hearing was later adjourned till September 17.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2013.
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