SC refuses to turn a blind eye towards missing persons

By Shehzad Baloch

QUETTA: The apex court summoned Balochistan’s top government officials to explain progress, or lack thereof, on the issue of ‘missing persons’ during Wednesday’s hearing of a case on the volatile security situation in the province.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry sought an assurance from Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and Home Minister Zafarullah Zehri that they will protect the life and property of the people under Article 9 of the Constitution.

Hearing the case at Supreme Court’s Quetta Registry, Justice Chaudhry censured the federal government and security agencies over their lack of progress and the provincial government’s apparent helplessness.

“It has been observed that the federal government is not cooperating for the recovery of missing persons, while the provincial government appears to be helpless,” he said. “Where are the missing persons? Has the earth or the sky swallowed them up?”

A relative of a missing person informed the court that two families received mutilated bodies of their loved ones a day after they recorded their statements before the court.

“We have apprehensions that they will dump bullet-riddled bodies of our beloved ones instead of producing them before the court,” he said.

The bench condemned the grisly discovery of bodies in the Uthal area on Tuesday and observed that if the act was some sort of threat, the judges are not scared and will continue their struggle for the enforcement of law.

When asked the provincial police chief refused to guarantee that more bodies would not be recovered from the province. The bench, then, summoned the chief and home minister to seek from them what the police chief refused to commit.

“Balochistan is burning, while the chief minister along with his cabinet members is busy attending luncheons in Islamabad,” Justice Chaudhry said.

“People are being subjected to enforced disappearances; mutilated bodies are found dumped; targeted killings are multiplying and incidents of kidnapping for ransom are also increasing,” he said.

“Provincial ministers are involved in kidnappings. Similarly, the Frontier Corps (FC) is accused of dumping mutilated bodies. Yet, he added, there is no progress,” he added.

The chief justice vowed not to sit silent on the issue.

Justice Tariq Pervez said the judiciary is not helpless and will go to any extent to ensure implementation of the law. “The failure of the system shows in the reluctance of security agencies to follow the government directives,” he remarked.

On Wednesday, the provincial government also submitted a report on the issue of missing persons. However, despite repeated warnings by the court, the police and other law-enforcement agencies could not produce a single missing person during the hearing.

Over 20 more families of missing persons also appeared before the court to lodge complaints about their missing loved ones.

Chief Secretary Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad informed the court that the government had convened a meeting on the issue. “However, the FC, ISI and the Military Intelligence did not respond when we provided them a list of 62 missing persons,” he told the court.

Women and men belonging to Hazara community also appeared before the court and lodged their complaints against the government for failing to protect the Hazara community.

The bench also recorded the statements of 62 families whose loved ones had gone missing while summoning the officials of FC and security agencies.

The Express Tribune

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