'Not your mandate', law minister tells IHC after stern remarks in missing poet case

Azam Nazeer Tarar says high court’s remarks “hurt” him, "undermine sanctity of parliament"

Web Desk
May 20, 2024
Not your mandate, law minister tells IHC after stern remarks in missing poet case
Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar addressing a press conference in Islamabad, on May 20, 2024. — Screengrab/PTVNewsLive

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar Monday told the judiciary, albeit with “all due respect”, that it did not have the mandate of dragging senior military officers and government officials to the court in the case of a missing poet.

Islamabad High Court’s Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani had moments before issued stern remarks against security agencies as authorities failed to recover missing Kashmiri poet and journalist Ahmed Farhad Shah.

During the hearing of the case the judge not only issued hard-hitting remarks against military officials, but warned that the court would summon the prime minister and his cabinet if the poet was not recovered.

"This is not the mandate of the court, the court is a platform for providing justice in line with the law and Constitution," Tarar said during a press conference in Islamabad, as the rift grows between institutions.

The minister noted that when a “habeas petition” is filed, then the court seeks answers, and it is the government’s job to ensure that it responds “with all seriousness”.

“If the issue isn’t resolved, then the law that’s been applicable for the past 50 years [...] that the matter is then handed over to the police and an FIR is lodged to ensure the person’s recovery.”

Tarar said the case of Shah’s disappearance is subjudice and he did not want to speak much on it, but said that the court’s remarks caused “hurt” him.

Terming the remarks “inappropriate”, the law minister said they could spread “unrest”. He said that a representative of the defence ministry had already informed the court that the poet was not in their custody.

“It is not the court’s mandate to say that these issues ‘will not be resolved like this’. The institutions also informed the court that they are ready to assist the police in any way possible,” he said.

The law minister mentioned that media channels, citing the judge, reported that he would summon the prime minister and his cabinet. “This undermines the sanctity of parliament”.

What happened during hearing?

At the outset of today’s hearing, a representative of the Ministry of Defence apprised the court: “Hostage [Shah] is not with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).”

The official further said that the ISI was refuting the allegation about its involvement in the enforced disappearance of the poet. At this, the judge remarked: “Now the matter has gone beyond the jurisdiction of the ISI and the Military Intelligence (MI). They are telling [us] about their failure.”

Justice Kayani directed the defence secretary to submit its report to the high court in writing. The judge ordered the defence and interior secretaries to appear before the court today.

The judge further said that he would also summon Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the cabinet members in the case later. “This matter is not so simple and easy. An example has to be set in this case.”

The judge further stated: “They [spy agencies] are sending messages [to the family] but on the other hand they are saying that the person is not in their custody.”

The law enforcement agencies have failed to recover the abducted person, he added.

“Does the sector commander live on the moon? What’s his stature? He’s an 18th-grade officer, who should stay within his [constitutional] limits. Do not follow them, the country can run without them.”

The court directed the investigation officer to record the sector commander’s statement and submit it to the court on Tuesday. Justice Kiyani further said that he would dismiss the petition if the missing poet was a terrorist or nominated in any case.

Meanwhile, an additional attorney general apprised the court that an FIR had been lodged and the police were carrying out investigations.

At this, the judge reminded the additional attorney about the police’s duties and asked if lodging an FIR was a favour.