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SHC voices concern over no legislation on enforced disappearances

By Jamal Khurshid
March 23, 2021

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday voiced concern over the lack of legislation in respect of the criminality of those behind enforced disappearances in Pakistan.

The court asked the federal government to consider the promulgation of a presidential ordinance with regard to enforced disappearances to protect the fundamental rights of people, including their right to life, which is probably the most precious of all the fundamental rights.

Hearing a petition against the enforced disappearance of Mohammad Adil from the Nazimabad neighbourhood on January 27, 2017, an SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha said it is quite alarming that there has been no legislation in respect of the criminality of those behind enforced disappearances, which is contrary to various United

Nations conventions as well.

The court said the Centre, as it has done in the past when facing difficulties in legislating, may consider promulgating a presidential ordinance under Article 9 of the constitution because the matter is of extreme urgency and violating the fundamental rights of people.

The bench also took exception to no comments being filed by the defence and interior ministries with regard to the presence of detainees at internment centres. The court said the defence and interior secretaries were ordered to file comments on the presence of detainees at internment centres, but neither has any report been filed nor have either of the secretaries shown up, thus violating the SHC’s order.

The bench gave a final opportunity to the defence and interior secretaries, ordering them once more to either submit compliance reports or appear in person before the court.

The SHC said the Centre has been raising a hue and cry about tracing missing persons, but it appears from the conduct of the defence and interior secretaries that this is only for the optics and no practical action is being taken to ensure the safe return of the missing persons.

In another petition against the disappearances of Mohammad Amin and Mohammad Ilyas on June 5, 2009, the bench ordered the National Database & Registration Authority and the State Bank of Pakistan to block the identification cards and bank accounts in the name of the missing persons.

The court said that despite the SHC’s orders, reports have not been filed on the presence of missing persons at internment centres, and once again directed the defence and interior ministries to collect reports from the internment centres through the relevant quarters mentioning the names of the people detained at the centres.

The bench said that apart from the above omission, serious efforts are being made to trace the missing persons, as shown by the various reports of the law enforcement agencies that are being filed. The court directed the authorities concerned to file their progress reports on April 20.