‘Spy agencies not above the law’

SC contradicts the AG's claim during the hearing of the missing persons case.

Express November 26, 2010


The Supreme Court on Thursday said intelligence agencies are answerable to the court, contradicting the attorney-general’s claim a day before that spy agencies cannot be made respondents in any case.

“Tell us whether there is any law governing the intelligence agencies,” said Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on the report submitted by the Attorney-General of Pakistan (AGP) Maulvi Anwarul Haq on the 11 men who disappeared from Adiyala jail.  “You are claiming immunity and saying with your statement that notices cannot be issued to these offices,” the CJ added.

Haq said he was not claiming immunity for the spy agencies and argued that he had only mentioned a procedural point and not a constitutional one. “There are no rules for intelligence agencies,” he said.

Taking exception to the fact that the report was not signed by the director-generals, the court directed intelligence agencies to submit a reply themselves. The report submitted on behalf of secret agencies said the court could only sue intelligence agencies through the relevant ministry.

“The Supreme Court has unlimited power of jurisdiction under article 185 of the constitution,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on the report, while heading a three-member bench. To a query, the attorney-general did not mention any specific clause of the constitution that prohibits the  Supreme Court from taking action against intelligence agencies. The bench made it clear that no one including the Inter Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence is above the law.

The court directed the AGP to resolve the matter of missing persons and not create further controversies. “All institutions must respect the law of the land rather than any other procedure or rule,” the CJ added.

Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday said: “If a person is whisked away by any SP investigation, will the court issue a notice to him or to the federation?” Agreeing with Justice Ramday, the AGP retracted his earlier stance. Haq said the media had portrayed the issue differently than what it was.

Justice Ramday contradicted the AGP and said that it is not wise to blame the media for everything and remarked that it was the responsibility of the state and its organs to resolve the issue.

The attorney-general sought more time to resolve the matter. Accepting his plea, the court adjourned the hearing till December 13.

The 11 men, who disappeared from the jail in Rawalpindi, were acquitted by an anti-terrorism court for want of evidence. They had been picked up for their suspected involvement in terrorist acts, including the attack on GHQ and the assassination attempt on former president Pervez Musharraf. The relatives of the 11 missing men claim that they were picked up from the premises of the Adiyala Jail by intelligence agencies, but the intelligence agencies have been denying the accusation.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2010.