Rejecting the defence secretary’s explanation, the Supreme Court gave a last chance to defence authorities to present the 33 missing persons within a few hours or face legal consequences.
During Monday’s proceedings, Attorney General Munir A Malik informed the court that two of the 35 missing persons have died in custody.
Heading a three-judge bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry told the defence authorities to file a case against those who are responsible for the deaths of two missing persons. The ‘custodial death of two missing persons’ is a clear evidence that all the missing persons are in the army’s custody, he added.
In response, Acting Defence Secretary Maj-Gen (retd) Arif Mahmood told the court, “We have searched for these missing persons in all 48 internment centres being run by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government. But the court did not give importance to his explanation, and asked Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to register cases against those who are responsible for their murders and ensure that the 33 remaining missing persons are presented by tomorrow.
“We will not give [more] time. We have already given sufficient time,” the court told Khawaja Asif, when he said that the parliament is going to legislate on this issue soon.
“Legislation is of no use to the people who are dead,” Justice Chaudhry told him off. He refused the defence minister’s request to give more time to the government, saying that not even a second more could be given in this regard.
The chief justice rhetorically asked whether there was any authority above the government, as it seemed helpless when it came to missing persons.
Justice Chaudhry also ordered that a case be filed for the death of the two missing persons. Cases should also be registered against the people who have taken the missing persons into custody, the chief justice further added.
“If the state is not following the law, then how it can apprehend others for violations,” Justice Chaudhry said.
The court also expressed displeasure over not handing over bodies of the missing persons to their relatives without proper procedure and without a post-mortem.
On the overall issue, Khawaja Asif said that this is a transitory period as the new army chief has just assumed office and would need some time to consult with higher authorities. The prime minister was on a visit abroad, he added.
However, the court held that this was a chronic issue and it had nothing to do with the transitory period.
The attorney general informed the bench that one of the deceased had died in December 2012 and the other in July this year. He also disclosed that Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had told him about the deaths of the missing persons on Sunday.
The top judge held that the deaths of these two people had made the case more complicated. He ordered that the names and other details of the deceased be submitted to the court.
The chief justice ordered that the remaining missing persons be presented at 11:30am today (Tuesday). The chief justice passed the order after defence authorities failed to produce the people on November 26. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that 18 hearings of the case had been held so far but the results were dismal.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2013.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ