PHC holds marathon hearing into 150 cases
PESHAWAR: A two-member Peshawar High Court bench on Wednesday heard around 150 forced disappearance cases for over seven hours and directed the defence and interior secretaries to file replies along with sworn affidavits in all those cases after checking the whereabouts of the said missing persons with security forces, Military Intelligence (MI), Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and other agencies.
Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Sajjad Hassan Shah also disposed of around a dozen petitions after learning that the detainees mentioned in those cases were freed by security agencies.
They later adjourned hearing into most forced disappearance cases until August 16 directing Wing Commander (r) Irfan of the defence ministry to ensure that if security forces denied detaining missing persons in the said cases, the defence secretary file a reply with sworn affidavit so that if missing persons were recovered in future, then responsibility could be fixed.
Similar instructions were also issued to the interior secretary.
The chief justice pointed out to the official that the court didn’t want undue interference in the security forces and agencies’ affairs but wanted to make it clear that protecting the rights of the people was its responsibility under the Constitution.
A large number of people, including women, elders and children, showed up. The courtroom was filled to capacity with many, especially women and children, sitting on the floor.
The bench was informed by provincial home secretary Mohammad Azam Khan that 194 detainees had been shifted to a notified internment centre in Lakki Marwat, while 132 had been attending a de-radicalisation programme in Swat.
During previous hearing on June 26, the court was provided list of around 1,035 detainees freed after reformation and that of around 895 people detained at internment centres in Malakand region.
The bench summoned the Fata additional chief secretary and the political agent of Khyber Agency in a writ petition about detention of two minor brothers, Nazeem and Ijaz Khan, who were 11 and 12 years of age, respectively, when they were allegedly taken away from a school in Bara tehsil by security forces over two years ago.
Iqbal Durrani, lawyer for the political agent, said the facts in that case were different which he could divulge if the bench heard him in the chamber. However, the chief justice observed that he would not hear cases of missing persons in his chamber and therefore, the two officials should appear on the next hearing and explain the situation.
Deputy attorney general Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand and representative of Frontier Corps (FC) Major Zafar informed the bench that of the 18 petitions related to FC, 13 detainees had been shifted to the notified internment centres, while the remaining were not in the FC’s custody.
The bench directed the DAG to contact the defence and interior ministries to trace them.
Mohammad Azam Khan said the government had issued directives to the authorities of notified internment centres under its control to facilitate meetings of relatives with internees.
He added that two of the detainees, Meena Baz and Maulana Mohammad Yaqoob, had been traced and freed by military authorities.
Mr Azam said orders for the interment of six other detainees, Yahya Khan, Noorul Haq, Laiq Shah, Khalid, Bashir Ahmad and Fazal Mohammad, were being issued and the court would soon be informed about the centres where they were lodged.
He added that cases of eight detainees were also pending with the inquiry commission on forced disappearances and investigation teams had been trying to trace them.
In accordance with the court orders, he said the government had finalised 10 cases to be sent for trial to the anti-terrorism court.
The bench directed him to contact the high court’s registrar or the administrative judge of ATC before filing the charge sheets in those cases.
A representative of Fata Secretariat, Malik Mujtaba, informed the bench that there was no missing person in custody of any political agent.
However, the bench observed that according to the information provided by it, around 20 persons had still been in the illegal custody of some political agents.
It also pointed out to Peshawar capital city police officer Imtiaz Altaf that despite issuance of orders by the chief secretary and provincial police officer, the court had still been receiving complaints that police officers were collaborating with agencies in their illegal activities.