The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday issued notices to secretaries of the ministry of interior and defence, attorney general (AG) of Pakistan and secretary Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) home and tribal affairs to appear in person in the missing persons case.
A two-member bench of Chief Justice (CJ) Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Ikramullah Khan is hearing 175 petitions of enforced disappearances in which people’s relatives were picked up from various locations and have not returned.
The division bench expressed displeasure as replies have not been submitted in the case and chided lawyers representing the federal government for not having a complete record of the case. The court ordered that cases from various districts of the province will now be entertained at PHC’s relevant circuit benches in Swat, Bannu and Abbottabad, among others.
“No progress report has been produced related to the missing persons even though these cases have been under hearing since 2012 and eight to ten adjournments have taken place. The AG is put on notice to appear in person along with secretary interior and defence to explain why the court’s orders are not complied with,” ordered the PHC bench. The next hearing has been fixed for April 30.
When the bench took up cases for hearing, deputy attorney generals (DAG) Manzoor Khalil and Farooq Shah told the court a letter was sent from the defence and interior ministries seeking three weeks to trace out the missing persons and scrutinise reports with the help of intelligence agencies. The court turned down the ministries’ request.
CJ Miankhel said the court had issued many orders in the missing persons cases but representatives of secret agencies do not appear at court and are thus disheartening relatives of the missing people.
DAG Khalil told the court the AG office has asked the agencies for their cooperation many times, both in writing and verbally. Upon this, the CJ questioned why the AG office does not use its constitutional power to summon the agencies’ officials.
The chief justice also said the oversight board under the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation for FATA and PATA, 2011 has not shown any progress in these cases and according to the law, these types of cases should be completed within 120 days.
The court was informed that Advocate Zain Khan Khalil has been missing since 2010 and was last seen in Zakhakhel Bazaar of Tirah, Khyber Agency. The government is reportedly exchanging prisoners with the Taliban so Khalil’s name should also be put on the list of prisoners to be exchanged, asked his representative.
The court directed the additional advocate general and DAG to consult their seniors and come with a positive result by May 13 as the petitioner has requested the detainee’s name be put on the list of prisoners to be exchanged.
“This petition is pending since 2010 and despite having been traced to Tirah by the relevant authority, no progress has been made by the K-P and federal governments. In these circumstances, we direct the political agent of Khyber Agency and secretary of the provincial home and tribal affairs department to appear in person to apprise the court regarding its latest position,” the court order reads.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2014.
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