ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appeared in the Islamabad high court on Friday and assured the chief justice of making all-out efforts for the recovery of missing persons who were allegedly picked up by security agencies on suspicion of being involved in anti-state activities.
The Pakistan PM was asked by the court to take the matter of enforced disappearances to parliament to legislate on it, as “India and other countries” have done.
Last July, Chief Justice Athar Minallah had warned that if the missing persons were not recovered, it would summon the incumbent chief executive, PM Shehbaz Sharif.
As Sharif appeared before the court, Justice Minallah told him that he was summoned as the issue at hand was a big one. The judge recalled that the court had referred the matter of missing persons to the federal cabinet multiple times but the cabinet’s response “had not been what it should be”.
Making a reference to former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, he said, “A chief executive ruled in this country for nine years. He proudly wrote in his book that we sold our people to foreign countries.” The court emphasised that there should not be an impression that law enforcement agencies were picking up citizens.
Addressing the PM, the chief justice remarked, “You are the prime minister and the national security of this country is in your hands. This court trusts you. Give us a solution for this issue.” He directed Sharif to take the matters to parliament and legislate on them. “India and other countries did the same,” he said.
PM Shehbaz Sharif replied that solving the issue was his duty. “I cannot say that all of the missing persons will be recovered, but we will leave no stone unturned in this matter,” the PM told the court.
Law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, who was also summoned by the court along with the PM and home minister Rana Sanaullah, asked the court for eight to 10 more weeks to introduce reforms in the criminal justice system. The court subsequently granted the government more time and adjourned the hearing till November 14.
Enforced disappearances are a persistent problem across Pakistan. Human right activists and observers claim that the law enforcement agencies, particularly Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), are responsible for forced disappearances in Pakistan. The security agencies, however, deny such claims and insist that many of the missing persons have either joined militant organisations such as the Pakistani Taliban. Law enforcement agencies also contend that many had died en route to Europe as illegal immigrants.
The commission for missing persons revealed that it had received more than 8,463 complaints of enforced disappearances since its establishment in March 2011. According to the commission’s monthly report, it had received 76 complaints of missing persons last March alone.