December 13th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Attorney General (AG) and counsel for missing journalist Mudassar Naaru will assist the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on January 18 to ascertain the State’s responsibility towards his disappearance three years ago.
On Monday, December 13, Chief Justice Athar Minallah gave the above directions while hearing cases of three missing persons-Mudassar Naaru, Abdul Qayyum, and Faisal Mushtaq.
At the onset of the hearing, Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan informed the court that Mudassar Naaru’s family had met the Prime Minister. He said the PM had issued special instructions to trace the missing journalist, adding that the government was taking the matter very seriously. The AG requested the court for additional time in the case. The court appreciated that the Prime Minister had met Mudassar Naaru’s family.
In the last hearing, the IHC had directed the federal government to produce Mudassar Naaru before the court on December 13 and also ensure a meeting of his family members with the Prime Minister before that. Prime Minister Imran Khan met the mother, father, and son of the missing journalist in Islamabad on December 9.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that neither it was the work of the court to trace missing people nor it could locate them, adding that the State had shown no wish to trace them either.
COIED’s establishment violates Constitution: CJ
The chief justice observed that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance (COIED) was established in violation of the Constitution. Only families of the missing persons go to the COIED where all they were given were dates of hearing, Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked.
The chief justice said there was no need for a law against enforced disappearance, referring to the statement of the Federal Minister for Human Rights that the government was legislating on the issue.
There were thousands of families who were not being taken care of by the State, the court said. “There cannot be a state within a state,” the Chief Justice observed.
“To date, no one has ever been traced, this is a crime under Article 6 (High Treason),” the Chief Justice said.
The Attorney General told the court that the phenomenon of missing persons did not begin in the reign of the present government but it had inherited this from the previous governments. He said hundreds of Pakistanis crossed the border to Afghanistan in the name of jihad, adding such individuals were also included in the category of missing persons.
However, the AG told the court that Mudassar Naaru did nothing to that would lead to his forced disappearance. Mudassar Naaru did nothing except criticing, he said. “It is journalist’s job to criticise,” the AG said, remarking that former chief executives had written books to claim credit for enforced disappearances in the country. In response, the chief justice said that after retirement people become Sufi (mystic).
Forced disappearances were a violation of the Constitution and even a terrorist could not be killed extra-judicially, the chief justice observed.
“It cannot be like this where anyone in a government department to go and pick someone up,” the chief justice said.
The court said some people had been going to the COIED for four years. “The COIED did not do what it was supposed to do,” Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed.
The AG told the court it was a tragedy that the phenomenon of missing persons needed to be seen in the context of the region’s geographical situation and the issue of national security. Tomorrow, an SHO (station house officer) would say he picked up a person for speaking against him, Chief Justice Athar Minallah said in response.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah inquired from the attorney general whether the court should initiate proceedings under Article 6 against former chief executives of the governments for cases of enforced disappearances in their tenures.
The court observed that the problem was that no one was being held accountable on the matter, adding that everyone was shifting responsibility to others. Make a hall of shame and put pictures of all the chief executives there, Chief Justice Athar Minallah said to the AG. In response, the AG suggested that pictures of other functionaries responsible for enforced disappearances should also be hung along with that of the former chief executives in the hall of shame.
The chief justice observed that the court was expecting the federal cabinet to play its role in bringing out a policy on enforced disappearances. “A man was picked up from Islamabad and he later stated that he had gone on a tour of northern areas,” the chief justice said.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah said the court did not know if the media was free or not in the country. Otherwise, pictures of missing persons will be on the front page of papers, he said.
The attorney general stated that some diseases were not cured by court decisions as people have to take to the streets, citing protests in Iran had led to a drop in enforced disappearances there.
Court decisions also provide a cure if those responsible were identified, Chief Justice Athar Minallah said while inquiring from the AG what should the court do. “Either the chief executives take responsibility, or hold those who are subordinate to them accountable,” Chief Justice Athar Minallah said.
Co (r) Inam-ur-Rehman, counsel for another missing person, said the Prime Minister and Federal Cabinet were responsible for violations of fundamental rights in the State: “There is a pressure on media which cannot show the plight of families of missing persons, Rehman told the court.
The court noted that nothing could be more painful when the state itself was involved in a crime. Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked the attorney general and counsels to assist the court on who should be held responsible for the missing persons.
Addressing the AG and the counsel, the chief justice said the court required assistance from them in issuing an order and asked about the time needed for the exercise.
Imaan Mazari, counsel for Naaru’s family, said she was ready to assist the court tomorrow while the attorney general said he required more time in this regard. Further hearing of the case was adjourned till January 18.