Friday, September 09, 2022

PM Shehbaz vows to reunite families as IHC gives govt two months in missing persons case

PM Shehbaz Sharif appears before IHC; CJ Minallah says state not fulfilling responsibility; hearing adjourned till November 14

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif arrives at Islamabad High Court for a hearing in missing persons case in the federal capital, on September 9, 2022. — Twitter
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif arrives at Islamabad High Court for a hearing in missing persons case in the federal capital, on September 9, 2022. — Twitter

  • PM Shehbaz Sharif appears before Islamabad High Court.
  • IHC CJ Minallah says the state not fulfilling its responsibility.
  • Hearing of missing persons case adjourned till Nov 14.

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) provided the federal government with two months for taking measures to ensure that missing persons are recovered.

"No official has done their job [...] we will hold everyone responsible if another missing persons case is filed in this court," IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah said while hearing a case of missing persons, including journalist Mudassar Naro.

The IHC had in May directed the federal government to serve notices to ex-president Pervaiz Musharraf and all other successors — the former prime ministers, including the incumbent holder of the office — in cases of missing persons.

IHC CJ had issued 15-page order in a case relating to the disappearance of journalist Naro and five other people after their petitions were fixed for final arguments, but the federal government requested an adjournment in May.

The IHC directed the government to ensure that the missing persons are recovered by June 17, however, since then the authorities have been seeking adjournments, citing various reasons.

In July, the IHC had warned that if the missing persons were not recovered, it would summon the incumbent chief executive — PM Shehbaz Sharif.

During today's hearing, the court not only summoned the prime minister, but Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar also appeared before the IHC.

The law minister requested more time and sought at least two months to resolve the issue after which the IHC CJ Minallah adjourned the hearing till November 14.

Today's hearing

At the outset of the hearing, IHC CJ Minallah told PM Shehbaz that the court has troubled him as the case is about a major issue.

The IHC chief justice remarked that the state is not responding as per its responsibility.

"A chief executive ruled this country for nine years. He proudly wrote in his book that he sold his people abroad," IHC CJ Minallah said. It seems like it was probably the "state's policy", he said.

"The court considered it appropriate to tell you [premier] what the issue actually is.The commission was formed to address the issue of missing persons but the proceedings were hurtful," the IHC chief justice said.

He said that the things Amina Masood Janjua told about the commission's conduct are extremely painful and intolerable.

IHC CJ Minallah expressed annoyance that no work was done despite continuous assurances and the formation of committees by the authorities.

"There are detention centres from where people have been recovered but no action was taken," he said.

He said that the state is responsible for redressing the sufferings of missing persons' [families].

"The state is not helpless. It is the state's responsibility if someone goes missing. Disappearing citizens is equal to breaching the Constitution," the IHC CJ said.

He said that the chief executive of the province or the Centre, wherever a person goes missing from, is responsible.

'Enforced disappearances are deviation from Constitution': IHC CJ Minallah

The IHC CJ said enforced disappearances are a deviation from the Constitution. “Otherwise, you'll have to say that the Constitution is not in its original form," he said.

He said that the prime minister has the national security of Pakistan in his hands and the problems of this country will be resolved when the Constitution is fully restored.

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz Sharif said that it was his duty to respond to the court's summons and appear before it.

"The child [son of a missing person] requested me to reunite him with his father. This sentence of the child was extremely worrisome for me therefore I will not waste a single chance to fulfill my responsibility," the premier said while assuring the court of making efforts to reunite missing persons with their families.

Informing the court about the progress of the committee formed for the recovery of missing persons, PM Shehbaz Sharif said that the committee has held six meetings. He promised the court that he will present a report before it for every meeting.

IHC CJ Minallah wants all missing persons cases resolved

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar then asked the court if he could speak about a few matters.

In response, the IHC CJ said that he does not want to hear that the government has formed a committee and is probing the case. "I am telling you, no missing persons case should be filed again in this court".

The IHC CJ told the law minister and prime minister that he wants all the previous missing persons cases to be resolved as his court was still getting complaints.

"This is an issue dating back 20-21 years, it will not be resolved within 10 days," the law minister told the court.

The IHC CJ then asked why Baloch students were being profiled based on their ethnicity.

The law minister then said a permanent solution to the issue was dialogue.

The IHC CJ said that even personnel from the Federal Investigation Agency pick them up.

Tarar said that there are five to six reasons for this, at which the court said that it was the responsibility of the government to address them.

IHC CJ Minallah said that if the constitution is violated, everyone involved is responsible and in case a person goes missing in future, it would be tantamount to breaking the Constitution.

"Your message is loud and clear, Mr chief justice," the prime minister said in response.

The law minister told the court that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Pakistan and the prime minister had to meet him. At this, the IHC allowed PM Shehbaz to leave.

Govt wants an open dialogue: law minister

Moving on, the IHC CJ said that the issue at hand is that all the office holders claim that they were not involved, no matter what the issue. "If you can't resolve the issues, then why don't you leave your office?"

Attorney-General for Pakistan Ashtar Ali Ausaf said that indeed, this should be the case.

The law minister apprised the court that the incumbent government was a coalition government and it had allies like the MQM-P and parties from Balochistan — who keep on complaining about missing persons.

"We want everyone to be satisfied; we want an open dialogue."

The law minister said that the government was holding meetings in this regard every week and that it required two months to resolve this issue and not a week.

The court accepted the law minister's plea to resolve the case within two months and adjourned the hearing till November 14.