Disappearing without a trace

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected a report filed by the attorney general (AG) stating that the 11 missing prisoners of Adiala Jail were not handed over to the intelligence agencies. These prisoners were acquitted by an anti-terrorism court in four terrorism-related cases. On appeal, the Lahore High Court (LHC) upheld this verdict and ordered their immediate release. District Coordination Officer Imdadullah Wassal issued a detention order to prevent their release and on its expiry Home Secretary Shahid Khan issued a similar order. When these orders were challenged in Rawalpindi bench of the LHC, the court instructed the petitioners to approach a judicial commission on missing persons set up by the Supreme Court.

Whenever any terrorism-related arrests are made, the accused are charged for carrying out all terrorist attacks to that date. Usually, it is difficult to prove their involvement and the suspects are released. But, what is really peculiar about the abduction of these 11 men is the fact that they were kidnapped from Adiala Jail. Prisoners in jails are under judicial custody. Some serious concerns are raised due to the inability of the judiciary to implement its own verdict through its subordinates.The Supreme Court wisely took up the matter of missing persons during the Musharraf regime. The apex court also set up a judicial commission to help families of the missing people. Oddly, the importance of this commission has fizzled out.

There are over 2,000 reported cases of missing persons from across Pakistan. We have seen an incremental rise in the number of people abducted by intelligence agencies on the charge of terrorism. However, a majority of the disappeared are from nationalist movements in Balochistan and Sindh although numerous cases have been also been reported in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The sheer violation of the rule of law can be ascertained by the case of Asad Usman. According to Amnesty International, Asad, a nine-year-old boy, was picked up by the Balochistan Frontier Constabulary and detained near Turbat, until his wanted elder brother surrendered. The Supreme Court intervened and ensured his release.For too long our security forces and intelligence agencies have been allowed to make a mockery of the rule of law. The time has come for the Supreme Court to provide redress to the thousands of missing persons and their families. As the highest court of the land, it must ensure the rule of law for everyone – Dailytimes