While rejecting the defence secretary’s explanation, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered for the production of 33 missing persons today (Tuesday) after Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) told the court that two out of the 35 missing persons had died. A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that custodial death of two missing persons is a clear evidence that all the missing persons are in custody of Pakistan army.
Additional Defence Secretary Major General Raja Arif Nazir (retd) told the court that they had checked all 48 internment centers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for the missing persons but failed to locate them. The court did not pay any heed to the explanation.
The bench took exception to a letter written by defence ministry’s director legal Irfan Ahmad to law ministry wherein he has stated that they lost confidence in Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar who misrepresented them by recording a statement before the court about a missing person that he is unauthorised detainee kept in internment center and he will be produced before the court soon.
The letter asked the AGP to disassociate his law officer from the case.
AGP Munir A Malik told the court that he had informed the defence authorities that he stands by the statement of his law officer and they can engage their legal counsel separately.
The court refused to hear the legal director defence and told him to address the court through AGP. But, AGP said, “defence ministry’s legal director briefed me on the issue, frankly speaking, I could not comprehend it to explain to you.”
The court asked Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to sack this legal officer. “We know why they are asking you to seek further time,” the chief justice told Asif, adding that “they will not even hear you but we want to make it clear that it is our duty to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens and we will pass an order as per law.”
The court asked the minister to register cases against those who are responsible for the enforced disappearances and “deaths” of the two missing persons.
“We will not give time. We have already given sufficient time,” the court told Asif when he sought more time to resolve the issue. The defence minister also informed the court that the parliament is going to legislate on the missing persons. “The people who have gone to graveyards do not need any legislation,” Justice Chaudhry further stated.
“If the state is not following the law, then how it can apprehend others for violations,” Justice Chaudhry remarked. The court also expressed displeasure on handing over of bodies of the two missing persons to their relatives without adopting proper procedure and conducting post-mortem to ascertain the cause of death.
During the hearing, Khawaja Asif sought more time from the court to resolve the issue, saying this is a transitory period as new army chief has assumed the office and it may take sometime to discuss the issue with higher authorities.
He said the prime minister was also on a foreign trip. The court, however, held that the issue was chronic and has nothing to do with the transitory period. “We will say go and bring all the missing persons and if they are involved in criminal activities, they should be dealt with as per law,” the court remarked.
After the attorney general informed the three-member bench that two of the missing persons died in custody, the chief justice ordered that the remaining missing persons be presented before the court by today at 11:30.
The attorney general informed the bench that one of the missing persons died in December 2012 while the other died in July 2013. He also revealed that defence minister Khawaja Asif had told him about the deaths of the missing persons last night.
Justice Chaudhry said the deaths of two people have made the case even more complicated. He said that names and other relevant details of the deceased should also be submitted to the court. The chief justice said that this is apparently ‘a custodial murder.’ He also refused the defence minister’s request to give more time to the government, saying that not even a second can be given in this case.
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that 18 hearings into the case have been held so far, but results are dismal.
Author: Aamir Saeed
Source: Business Recorder