Pak govt to set up judicial commission on `missing persons`
Last Updated: Thursday, March 18, 2010, 23:50
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.


First Published: Thursday, March 18, 2010, 23:50

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