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Peshawar

February 20, 2017

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PHC recent order gives hope to relatives of missing persons

PHC recent order gives hope to relatives of missing persons

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has finally taken notice of the long delays in submission of replies by the law-enforcement agencies in the cases of missing persons.

The court had asked both the federal and provincial governments to provide without further delay the details of all the missing persons whose cases were pending before the court.

On February 16, Lt Gen (R) Zamir Shah, Secretary Ministry of Defence, Arif Ahmad Khan, Secretary Ministry of Interior, Shakeel Qadir, Secretary Home and Tribal Affairs, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Musarratullah Khan, Deputy Attorney General representing the federal government and Mujahid Ali, Additional Advocate General appeared before the court.

They assured that the court order would be complied with before the next hearing to be held on March 2.The bench headed by PHC Chief Justice Yahya Afridi heard the case in his chamber. As per the order sheet, a copy of which is available with The News, the secretaries concerned who were representing the intelligence agencies had assured the court that information about the whereabouts of all the missing persons in cases pending before the court would be provided.

The court had asked both the federal and provincial governments that their report should be specific about a detenue (missing person) held by the federal or provincial agency at a particular place.

The officials informed the court that time was required for responding to detention of persons where no such specific assertions about the whereabouts were made in the petition.The court ordered the government to appoint a focal person, who would coordinate with the federal and provincial governments and attend to the cases related to missing and detained persons.

“We (court) want to know if the missing persons are with you or not. We want immediate response in this regard,” Chief Justice Yahya Afridi had observed while hearing the missing persons’ cases.

The court had earlier directed the secretaries concerned to hold a joint meeting within two weeks and apprise it whether the missing persons whose cases are running in the court are with the intelligence agencies working under them or not.

The court passed the direction in a habeas corpus petition filed by Khalida and Nasir Khan. They had sought information about the whereabouts of their missing relatives allegedly picked up by the law-enforcing agencies.

Deputy Attorney General, Musarratullah Khan, who was representing the federal government and intelligence agencies in the missing persons’ cases, told The New that still hundreds of such cases were pending before the high court.

He pointed out that there were many cases in which proper addresses and information were not mentioned in the petitions and thus seeking information about the whereabouts of such persons consumed time.

On the other hand, relatives of the missing persons have lost interest in the cases at the PHC due to slow progress. Muhammad Arif Jan, a high court lawyer who deals with the missing persons cases, said for the last two three years the relatives had lost hope in the high court to ensure safe recovery of the missing persons.

He noted that the intelligence agencies officials in their curt reply use the words “not held” without producing a proper Joint Investigation Report. He hoped the new steps taken by the chief justice would work and help restore the confidence of the relatives of the missing persons.

Meanwhile, the Senate”s Select Committee had unanimously adopted the Right to Information (RTI) Bill 2016 moved by the government as it made mandatory upon the state institutions to provide information about the missing persons within three days.

The RTI bill is to replace the Freedom of Information Ordinance at the federal level. The proposed law recognises citizens’ right to know under the Constitution and have access to information about the activities of the government.

Senator Farhatullah Babar of Pakistan People’s Party, a member of the committee, was of the opinion that the draft law would greatly help citizens in securing the maximum information and would go a long way towards addressing the issue of missing persons.

 

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