IHC Allows Second Tier Officials Of Top Sleuthing Agencies To Help Recover Missing Persons

Court allows CTD and FIA officials and other law enforcement officials to be co-opted in the commission on missing persons set up by the iHC

IHC Allows Second Tier Officials Of Top Sleuthing Agencies To Help Recover Missing Persons

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday allowed the government to include the second-tier leadership of security agencies in a three-member committee formed to trace and resolve cases of missing persons. 

It also allowed the committee to co-opt members of other law enforcement agencies into the committee for true identification and recovery of the alleged persons who were victims of enforced disappearances.

This was directed as IHC's Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiani heard a petition filed by lawyer Imaan Zainab Hazir-Mazari on recovering missing persons.

Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Barrister Munawar Iqbal Duggal, AAG Usman Rasool Ghumman, Defence Ministry's Law Officer Lt Cdr Jamshad Gull appeared before the court.

The attorney general pointed to the administrative problems faced by the three-member committee formed by the court to trace missing persons, comprising the director generals of the civilian Intelligence Bureau (IB), the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI).

The IB chief had pointed to difficulties in coordination. Moreover, he had asked for a joint director general to be appointed as the committee's convener.

The court, however, allowed the three major security agencies to be represented by their respective second in command (second highest level officials) for achieving its mandate. 

Moreover, the court also allowed the committee to co-opt any other official of the counter-terrorism department (CTD) of the police and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

During the hearing, the state presented its response to questions posed by the court, highlighting the activities of alleged Baloch militant organisations and the actions taken by law enforcement agencies. However, the attorney general said it would provide categorical answers by the next hearing.

"[The attorney general] undertakes on behalf of the state as well as the law enforcement agencies that every person who has allegedly been disappeared or is missing will be reunited with his family," an order issued by the IHC after the hearing read.

Regarding the committee on enforced disappearances, the attorney general told the court that the state had prepared a set of recommendations for a political solution to the problem, approvals for which will be sought in the next meeting of the relevant cabinet committee.

Mazari contended that per the commission's own admission, the creation of multiple structures by the government, directly or indirectly (on the directions of courts) in the form of commissions, cabinet sub-committees and parallel functioning of various human rights organisations under the rubric of enforced disappearances has led to overlapping of mandate and exhaustion of resources without any meaningful and tangible outcome towards resolution of this critical issue.

The attorney general informed the court that the recommendations given by the federal cabinet on the ministerial committee on enforced disappearance will be shared with this court, which would be considered a way forward in the future.

The court adjourned further hearings for three weeks until June 14, 2024.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain