Abiding by SC orders: Govt forms task force on missing persons

Court refuses to accept task force as substitute for policy.

Umer Nangiana July 25, 2013
The supreme court bench refused to accept the task force as a substitute for a comprehensive policy for dealing with the issue. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


In the wake of Supreme Court orders asking for a policy on enforced disappearances, the federal government on Thursday formed a committee to look into cases of missing persons.

“The task force will investigate every single case of missing persons or alleged forced disappearances and submit its report to the government,” an interior ministry official told The Express Tribune. He added that the government would then share the findings of the task force with the SC bench hearing the missing persons’ case.

On Thursday, Attorney General Munir A Malik informed the three-member bench that the newly-formed task force would recommend a national policy on enforced disappearances in addition to monitoring the progress of all missing persons cases.

However, the bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, refused to accept the task force as a substitute for a comprehensive policy for dealing with the issue. It observed that it had clearly asked for an elaborate policy on how the government intended to recover missing persons and discourage the practice of picking up citizens on mere suspicion, within a ten-day period.

According to the government attorney, the new federal task force will be headed by additional interior secretary Tariq Lodhi, who earlier headed the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC). The previous government had tasked NCMC with tracing the whereabouts of missing persons.

The attorney general told the court that the task force would also include the home secretaries of all provinces, the four additional inspectors general of police special branches, the additional attorney general, a member of the commission of the inquiry on enforced disappearances (CIED), representatives of Inter Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence, and the Islamabad chief commissioner. He added the task force would hold its first meeting on July 29.

Meanwhile, the bench noted that while 504 people were arrested from various areas and confined in different internment centres in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa under Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulations 2011, their cases were never presented before relevant courts for trial. The aforementioned law stipulates that any individual detained by the authorities must be presented before a court from the area he has been picked up from.

Separately, the additional attorney general told the court that the federal government has asked the Balochistan government to proceed against Brigadier Sadiq over alleged involvement in Ali Ahmad Bangalzai’s disappearance from Quetta in 2001. Another brigadier was earlier booked in Rawalpindi on similar accusation, the court was told earlier by police officials. The court had earlier allowed police officials to proceed against any military official allegedly involved in enforced disappearances.

The CIED, in its report, had also advised the government to take action against at least 117 law enforcement officials over alleged involvement in enforce disappearances. It had named officials of intelligence agencies who were found involved in multiple cases of forced disappearances as well.

Despite its recommendations, no officer has been arrested so far.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.