Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has ordered the newly appointed defence minister to trace 35 people who have long been missing by Monday and directed the Frontier Constabulary’s (FC) inspector general to ensure their appearance in court.
“In the case of failure, the court would order the lodging of FIRs against those responsible, including the FC IG,” the chief justice told the defence minister and defence secretary on Thursday.
The four-member bench, comprising Justices Jawwad S Khawaja, Khilji Arif Hussain and Amir Hani Muslim, was hearing a case seeking the recovery of Yasin Shah who was taken away from an internment centre.
The judges observed that the allegations in the missing persons’ cases, directly or indirectly, lead to either the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) or Frontier Constabulary, who are still denying anything to do with the detentions.
The bench members said the families of the missing persons were compelled to march across provinces, which has tainted the image of the country. The consequences of this would be drastic, they said.
The judges were of the view that the law-enforcement agencies are running a parallel government in Balochistan, where an elected chief minister has himself publicly shown his inability to resolve the issue of disappearances.
Attorney General Munir A Malik, who is assisting the apex court as amicus curiae, agreed that criminal proceedings could be initiated against law enforcers if there is evidence against them.
Earlier in the hearing, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that the prime minister had shown commitment to resolve the missing persons’ issue “once and for all” by working out a comprehensive policy. He gave an undertaking to take up the matter with the premier and the army chief over the issue.
Chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Nasrullah Baloch said the relatives of those gone missing were fed up even they have even stopped coming to the Supreme Court, having lost all hope. But during the break, Khawaja Asif visited the camp of the missing persons’ families outside the Karachi Press Club and promised that the government would resolve the issue soon via legislation, which is in its final phase.
Later, he told the judges that the recommendations have been finalized for legislation to resolve the missing persons’ issue, adding that it would be enacted soon. He requested more time to ascertain the missing persons’ whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Justice Jawwad Khawaja, flashing a green book, told the defence minister and secretary that no institution and individual is above the Constitution. The bench remarked it was still unclear whether the court martial of the two majors over the issue of missing persons is being conducted or not.
The apex court warned it would order the registration of FIRs against those responsible, including the FC IG, if the missing persons were not presented in court on Friday. “We will see how the police do not take action against the FC IG,” warned Chief Justice Chaudhry.
Talking to reporters after the SC hearing, Khawaja Asif vowed to solve the controversial issue of “missing persons” within weeks. He said 738 missing persons had been located and others would be found soon. “This (recovery of missing persons) is our responsibility and now it would not take years or months but is a matter of a few weeks.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2013.
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