Missing persons: Fiery SC lays down the law for spy agencies

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad ChaudhryISLAMABAD: An unforgiving Supreme Court has put its foot down — with a scathing warning and a diatribe against the country’s top spy agencies.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the report submitted by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) in the Adiala jail missing prisoners’ case, the apex court gave out a stern reprimand on Thursday.“Do not assume in your head that you [ISI and MI] are superior and others [civilians] are inferior,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. “You are not above the law.”

Headed by Chief Justice Chaudhry, the three-member bench said that the spy agencies, in their responses to the court, made no attempt to explain under which laws civilians were picked up and kept in detention for more than a year.

“Who gave you the right to hound people?” thundered the chief justice at the ISI and MI’s counsel, Raja Irshad.“You are extremely insensitive to the human pain and loss that the families of the missing persons continue to bear because of your actions.“The allegation that you [ISI and MI] abduct people and their abandoned bodies surface after days is an extremely serious one,” said Chief Justice Chaudhry.“After reading your poorly-drafted reply, I wondered whether we are working against the country’s interests here. As much as you consider yourself to be loyal to this country, perhaps we are more loyal than you.”

Underscoring the controversial role of the agencies in Balochistan, where hundreds of men have gone missing, the chief justice said: “You’re an arsonist. You have set Balochistan on fire.“We asked you time and again and you avoided the truth. Are we here to listen to your stories?“Even if these people had attacked the General Headquarters (GHQ), it was imperative to produce evidence against them for a fair trial. You are not above the law; you must go by the book.”

The chief justice added that the “insensitive” agencies have become the “biggest violators” of the country’s laws.The defence counsel said that the authorities in the ISI and MI “are considering this matter seriously as this is a burning issue”.Pointing out that “foreign elements” were involved in fuelling terrorism in Balochistan, he said that the agencies cannot work with their “eyes closed”. In reply, the chief justice remarked that whatever the agencies do should be done within the parameters of the law.

The court, however, voiced satisfaction over the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chief secretary’s report on the health conditions of prisoners. The report covered inmate health, improvement in their condition and how they were being accommodated.Tariq Asad, the lawyer for missing prisoners, was told by the court to invoke the available procedures to secure the release of prisoners and the hearing was adjourned for 14 days.Seven of the eleven surviving detainees – accused of attacking the General Headquarters and the ISI’s Hamza Camp base – were picked up from the Adiala prison by intelligence agencies after they had been acquitted of the charges by the court.

Four of the 11 detainees died in the custody of the ISI and MI and on February 13 – more than a year and a half after being picked up – seven of them were presented before the Supreme Court after the two agencies were served notices to explain the circumstances behind the deaths of the four prisoners.The mother of two of the deceased also passed away recently, reportedly due to heart failure after witnessing the condition of her remaining son.

After the hearing Irshad told reporters outside the court that collecting evidence in terrorism cases was very time consuming, which was why the men had been held.“The phenomena of terrorism is very recent and there is an urgent need for new legislation,” he said.“When they were in custody, the army did not want to do a fake or mock trial,” he said. – Thetribune