Pak govt to set up judicial commission on `missing persons`

Pakistan government on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that it will establish a judicial commission to address the issue of thousands of "missing persons".

Updated: Mar 18, 2010, 23:50 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan government on Thursday
informed the Supreme Court that it will establish a judicial
commission to address the issue of thousands of "missing
persons" or people who are believed to have been detained by
security and intelligence agencies.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan told a
three-member bench headed by Justice Javed Iqbal that all
concerned ministries will be accountable to the proposed
judicial commission on missing persons.
The commission will comprise a retired judge of the
Supreme Court and two retired judges of High Courts. The apex
court is hearing a clutch of petitions asking the court to
direct authorities to trace the missing persons.

The Foreign Office presented a report in the court
that said about 6,000 Pakistanis are currently being held
overseas.

Rights groups and relatives of the missing persons
have alleged that security agencies are holding thousands of
people without charge.

Justice Muhammad Sair Ali, one of the members of the
bench, observed during today`s hearing that the formation of
the judicial commission will ease the burden of the apex
court.

Justice Iqbal remarked that the basic problem in the
matter is that there are different stakeholders who are not
performing their functions efficiently.

"The government could have taken the issue of the
missing persons seriously," Iqbal said.

He added it was deplorable that the number of missing
persons had increased instead of going down and thus the
situation is alarming.

Only about 237 people had been traced since the
judicial proceedings started and a majority of the missing
persons hailed from Balochistan, he said.
Iqbal also remarked that the government should change
current laws governing the arrest of people if they are
flawed.

The bench also directed the Chief Commissioner and
Inspector General Police of Islamabad to appear before it on
April 5 and inform it about the actual number of people killed
in the 2007 military operation against radical elements and
militants holed up in the Lal Masjid.

The bench said it would hear the Lal Masjid case
separately from that of the missing persons.

The army has maintained that about 100 people were
killed in the Lal Masjid operation. However, several religious
groups and political parties have claimed the toll was higher.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Asma
Jehangir presented a list of 51 missing persons to the court.

This included 27 people from Balochistan, 10 from
Punjab and seven each from NWFP and Sindh. Jehangir asked the
court to order the government to inform the HRCP about the
laws under which intelligence agencies are working and to whom
they are accountable.

Amna Masood Janjua of the NGO Defence for Human
Rights, whose husband is among the missing persons, opposed
the proposal for setting up a commission and said the Supreme
Court was the only hope for the relatives of the missing.
However, the apex court suspended the proceedings in
the case after a serving lieutenant colonel allegedly
threatened a lawyer.

The court took serious notice of the incident and
directed the army officer, who is a legal officer in the
defence ministry, to explain why he had threatened the lawyer
in the court.

The Lieutenant colonel tendered an unconditional
apology, following which the court adjourned the hearing till
April 5.

PTI