Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Missing Persons Case (Part II)


Ten days ago I blogged ( They Remain Missing) about the hearing of Missing Persons’ Case held on 10 April before a three member bench of the Supreme Court.

At this hearing:
- The Attorney general, despite a Supreme Court notice to appear, ducked from appearing at the hearing despite being on the court premises earlier that morning.

- The Ministry of Interior failed to file a detailed reply on the missing persons despite being notified by the Supreme Court to do so. Instead the Ministry submitted a letter undertaking to provide a detailed response at the date of the next hearing.

A decidedly patient Supreme Court then:
- Assured the family members of the missing that that the attorney general would appear before the court at the next hearing; and

- Ordered the Deputy Attorney General to send a notice to the Interior Ministry to disclose the whereabouts of those who are in military detention, as well as locate the rest of those missing.

At the end of the hearing a dejected Raja Muhammad Irshad , the Deputy Attorney General told the press:
“If by next hearing the Interior Ministry doesn’t inform us about the whereabouts of those people, I will refuse to present this case.”

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As the Missing Persons Case has been widely cited as one of the reasons for which the Chief Justice of Pakistan was unlawfully ‘dismissed’ by Musharraf, your Blogger believes it is imperative that the case be tracked to its conclusion.

The three member bench of the Supreme Court presently hearing this case is being presided by Justice Javed Iqbal, whom, readers will recall, briefly (and it turns out illegitimately) took the oath of the office of Acting Chief Justice while the Chief Justice of Pakistan was being subjected to illegal captivity at his residence.
_____________________________________________

The next hearing of the case was held yesterday.

Did the Attorney General, Makhdoom Ali Khan, show up?

No

Did the Ministry of Interior, as ordered, present the Court with a detailed reply on the missing persons?

No
_____________________________________________

The Travails of the Poor Deputy Attorney General (DAG)

According to The Nation, a visibly distressed Raja Muhammad Irshad, the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) informed the Court:

- "The crisis in the country is due to the non-enforcement of the Constitution."

- DAG "repeatedly told the bench…that he could not do more than contacting Ministry of Interior.
'I have my limitations and I can only operate through Ministry of Interior,' DAG said while responding to the distressed families’ demand of issuing notices to the heads of IB, ISI and MI to be answerable for the abduction of the nationals of this country."

- The DAG while "referring to articles 9 and 10 of the Constitution said, “The court can dispense justice through these articles.” He further told the court to use its powers."

The News adds:

The deputy attorney-general said, “I have sentiments, too, being a father, a brother and a husband and feel the difficulties of the families of the missing persons. Therefore, I cannot face them.”

“At previous date I was assured the Interior Ministry would provide me the report,” the deputy-attorney general submitted. “Head of the Crisis Management Cell Brig Cheema had told me that the orders of the apex court would be complied with. I wonder as to why he has not complied with the orders of the apex court.”

The deputy attorney-general informed the court that he can no longer pursue the case in the prevailing situation and can assist the court not more than this.

_____________________________________________

A Brief Summary of the extraordinary Court proceedings

Excerpts from The Nation, :

Asma Jahangir, one of the lawyers representing the aggrieved families, asked the bench to make the agencies answerable before the court. “Our lives are threatened by these agencies,” she said.

Justice Javed Iqbal responded to Asma Jahangir’s remarks by saying, “ yeah na kahain keh hur cheez agencies nay kee hai (do not blame agencies for everything that happens).”

While repeating President General Musharaff’s statement over the missing persons’ issue, he said that these people could be militants motivated to join jihad.

Justice Iqbal further told the anxious families, who have been searching for their loved ones for the past six years, “not to be hasty in pursuing this case.”

Senator Farhatullah Babar, who had filed a petition in the same case on the last hearing on April 10, 2007, urged the SC to order the government to divulge the law under which the intelligence agencies operate so that the issue of missing persons could be examined in its correct perspective.

He told the bench that he had also raised the same question in the Senate in October 2003 and the information was denied by the Ministry of Defense, saying, “the subject matter of this question is of secret and sensitive nature and it asks for information on a matter prejudicial to the integrity and security of the country.”

Justice Javed Iqbal while supporting Ministry of Defense’s response narrated by Senator Farhatullah Babar said that some laws were sensitive and could not be probed.

The lawyers present in the court were surprised over such a response and questioned about the laws kept secret from the public. “This is something new to me that laws are also kept confidential,” said Asma Jahangir.

Excerpts from the Dawn:

Mr Babar also urged the Supreme Court to ask the government to produce a copy of the law under which intelligence agencies operated so the issue of disappeared people could be examined in its correct perspective.

It was necessary, he said, because the parliament had denied even a copy of the law saying the issue was sensitive. Asma Jehangir, the HRCP chief, urged the court to summon officials of the intelligence services because, according to her, people were working under the threats of the agencies.

Ms Janjua recalled that in December, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had directed intelligence services – the Inter Services Intelligence, the Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau – to send their representatives to the court and answer questions regarding the missing. Five hearings had taken place since then without any progress, she lamented.

“What is the point if this court has no control over these agencies,” she said, adding that the court was adjourning the matter week after week.

Justice Iqbal, however, assured relatives of missing people that the court would take every possible step to minimise their grievance. “Your confidence in the court will never be shattered and betrayed.”

Every institution in Pakistan was answerable to the Supreme Court and nobody was above the law, Justice Iqbal observed, but said certain jihadi outfits were also involved in the disappearance as they lured young men by convincing them to wage a holy war.
_____________________________________________

Prior to adjourning the case the Supreme Court summoned the Defence Secretary, the Interior Secretary and the Director General of National Crisis Management Cell to appear at the next hearing scheduled for 27th April.

Link: The Glasshouse: The Missing Persons Case - They remain Missing



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