January 5th, 2021

By Rehan Piracha 


LAHORE

“I was blindfolded and taken into a car to an undisclosed location where I was detained for 48 hours,” lawyer Hammad Saeed Dar, told reporters outside Islamabad High Court building on Monday to reporters about his ordeal.

Hammad Saeed Dar’s father and representatives of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association had moved the High Court after the lawyer had been abducted from his home in Islamabad by unidentified persons in the early hours of Saturday,  January 2, 2021.  “My house bell rang at 1.30am and my father went to the door where there were some 15 unidentified people outside asking to meet me,” Dar says. His father asked two of the men to come in but 10 people barged into his house. “As I came to meet them, the armed men accosted me and took me outside to a car after blind-folding me,” he tells reporters. “The men also seized my laptop and cell phone,” he added.

‘They refused to tell me why’

Dar says the car drove about for about 30 minutes to an unknown location and when his blindfold came off, he found himself in a small room. “I do not know why they abducted me and what they wanted from me. They just asked my name and the place where I worked. I repeatedly asked them to explain what I had done or if there was any complaint against me but they did not bother to tell me anything,” the lawyer says.

Dar says he told his abductors that he was ready to appear willingly before authorities if there is any case or complaint against himself. He says the abductors refused to answer his queries and kept on checking his laptop and cell phone. “I was let off after 48 hours in detention, probably because of his case coming into the public limelight due to the efforts of the Islamabad bar association, media and the high court,” Dar says.

‘Laptop and cell phone still with abductors’

Speaking to Voicepk.net, Sohail Akbar, Secretary of IHCBA, says police officials registered the FIR after 24 hours and showed reluctance in locating the getaway vehicles. “A mere suspension or show-cause is an eyewash and won’t bring any change,” he says. Akbar says the manner in which Dar was kidnapped, detained illegally and released is a question mark for state functionaries. He says unidentified abductors have not returned the seized laptop and cell phone.

Akbar says the counsels have also told the court about their apprehension that the seized equipment can be misused to bring ungrounded charges against Dar. “If there is any illegality that has to be brought before the police officials and the court,” he says. He said the whole episode is reflective of state failure in protecting fundamental rights of its citizens.

Court hearing

Prior to the media talk, Dar appeared before Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court who was hearing the petition filed by his father over his abduction. He told the court that the unidentified abductors released him after 48 hours in illegal detention. The court also questioned police officials about the slack response over registration of the first investigation report. Waqar-Ud-Din Syed, Deputy Inspector General of Police told the court that the investigation into the lawyer’s abduction is in progress and assured that no stone will be left unturned to identify and proceed against the perpetrators of the alleged offence. He informed the court that the departmental inquiry has been initiated against the incharge of the Police Station for delay in registering the first investigation report.

However, Chief Justice Athar Minallah noted that the court has been consistently pointing out the deteriorating law and order situation and alleged abduction of citizens. “This Court has and continues to repose its confidence in the will and commitment of the Prime Minister and members of the Federal Cabinet that they will take appropriate measures in order to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizens,” Chief Justice Athar Minallah said in his order. The court ordered the police officials and the federal interior secretary to submit their reports regarding the abduction on January 15, 2021.

The chief justice said the violation of duties and obligations by public functionaries cannot be condoned because doing so would lead to the erosion of the very basis of the State’s legal authority and thus undermine the rule of law. “The most cherished and valuable fundamental right is liberty of a citizen; the latter’s security and the right not to be deprived from freedom of movement; the right not to be detained otherwise in accordance with the law. The right to a fair trial and due process is an integral part of the guaranteed right under Article 10A of the Constitution,” the court order reads.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah said an abduction may not be an “enforced disappearance” but even such a perception is unimaginable and intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights. The court said such abductions are the cause of great suffering for the victim’s family and close relatives, noting that in such an eventuality lack of response, non-cooperative and negative attitude of the agents of the State i.e. public functionaries becomes the most detestable form and the manifestation of breach of constitutional obligations.

“The grievance of the petitioner, particularly regarding the response of public functionaries in the case in hand, cannot be justified on any ground whatsoever. The nature of the alleged occurrence is one of the most heinous crimes which ought to have been given the highest priority by the public functionaries,” Chief Justice Athar Minallah said.

Test case for the federal government

The high court said it is a challenge for the Federal Government and the public functionaries of the Islamabad Capital Territory to demonstrate to the actual stakeholder i.e. the people, that violation of their fundamental rights would neither be condoned nor tolerated. “This Court has no reason to doubt that the Federal Government i.e. the worthy Prime Minister and members of his cabinet lack the will and commitment to restore rule of law by making the 1400 square mile area of Islamabad Capital Territory a model for others to follow.”

The chief justice directed the federal interior secretary to place copies of the court order before the Prime Minister and members of the federal cabinet, adding that the court is confident that the federal cabinet will take appropriate measures so that the fundamental rights are protected and no citizen becomes a victim of lack of prompt and effective response on part of agents of the State.

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