Sindh High Court displeased over ‘indifferent attitude’of human rights ministry
By: Jamal Khurshid
Karachi: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday expressed its displeasure over the ministry of human rights’ allegedly indifferent attitude towards the welfare of missing persons’ families and observed that it was the duty of the state to protect the life and property of the citizens.
The court was hearing the petition of a non-governmental organisation that demanded the government take immediate steps to provide financial assistance to the families of all missing persons.
The Human Rights and Civil Liberties Society of Pakistan, through its chairman Nisar A Mujahid, submitted that after 9/11, a large number of Al-Qaeda suspects were picked up by US authorities in league with the Pakistani government. However, when their detention matters were taken up before the courts, neither were the detainees produced nor their whereabouts disclosed to the families.
He said that the families of the missing people faced financial hardships and were left in a state of isolation. The petitioner argued that the government was bound to provide financial assistance and meet the education costs and other requirements of the family members.
Director General Ministry of Human Rights Dr Nawaz Ahmed filed his comments and said providing financial assistance could open up a Pandora’s Box. He added that the ministry had limited resources and it was likely that a number of false claims of missing persons would be filed.
The court observed that it was the duty of the state, under the Constitution, to protect the life and property of any of its citizens and such a responsibility should be completed without affecting the honour and respect of the affected people. It added that the families should not be made to feel like they were carrying begging bowls.
SHC’s division bench, headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam, observed that the response submitted by DG Human Rights was not inspiring in the least. The bench said that the Sindh chief secretary should be more concerned about missing persons in the province.
Additional Advocate General Miran Mohammad Shah undertook to the task of conveying the court’s displeasure to the chief secretary home secretary over the alarming issue.
The SHC said the authorities concerned should establish contact with Baitul Mal and other fund providing resources available to them and formulate a mechanism to provide at least minimal assistance to the affected families such as substance allowance and education.
The court directed that comments on these directives should be filed by the chief secretary, home secretary and secretary law by February 21.
Missing KWSB employee
The SHC issued notices to the Karachi Union of Journalists, the Karachi Press Club and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors to clarify their position on journalism ethics regarding the disclosure of their source of information.
The court was hearing the petition of Beena Khalid, who claimed that her husband, Khalid Shahmim 37, an employee of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), was allegedly picked up by law enforcement agencies from the Malir Halt area on January 6, 2011 and his whereabouts remained unknown since.
The petitioner’s counsel, during the pendency of the petition, filed another miscellaneous application before the court in September last year and submitted that as per media reports, Beena Khalid’s spouse was taken into custody by law enforcement agencies at Karachi airport in August 2011 on suspicion of his involvement in the murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq in London.
He placed on record the transcript of a news telecast on the electronic media which suggested the petitioner’s husband was taken by federal law enforcement agencies and he was still in their custody.
Meanwhile, immigration authorities placed the travel details of Khalid Shamim from April 21, 2005 to September 22, 2010 on record as well. However, the court observed that the travels of the petitioner’s spouse from July 2011 to August 26, 2011 could not be ascertained.
The court observed that media reports suggested that the missing person was detained by law enforcement agencies in connection with the Dr Imran Farooq murder case, but the reporter of the story refused to reveal his source on the grounds of journalism ethics.
The SHC noted that a similar situation arose from the missing persons’ cases of Dilawar Baloch and Tariq Baloch, who according to media reports were detained by law enforcement agencies, but once again, the journalists who published the news refused to reveal their source of information. The court also heard the arguments of senior counsel Munir A Malik, who submitted that there was no local law that protected such a right of journalists, but such protection was given under the British and US laws, subject to the nature of the case. The court observed that it would be appropriate to hear from journalists and relevant stakeholders on the issue. It sent notices to the journalists, PFUJ, KUJ and KPC for their replies in this matter.