The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Sunday directed the federal government to serve notices on ex-president Pervez Musharraf and all his successors – the former prime ministers, including the incumbent holder of the office – in missing persons’ cases and held it accountable for the armed forces’ acts.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued a 15-page order in a case relating to the disappearance of journalist Muadassir Naro and five other people after their petitions were fixed for final arguments, but the federal government requested an adjournment. The court noted that not only nationals but even non-Pakistani citizens enjoy the fundamental right of security and protection of life.
However, the reports submitted on behalf of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances manifest that the phenomenon of enforced disappearances not only exists but the impunity is to such an extent that no one has ever been held accountable, the order noted. “It has, prima facie, become obvious that the Commission, rather than achieving its object, has become a forum which contributes toward making the agony and pain of the victims more profound. Its proceedings seem to have become a mere formality and its adversarial nature undermines and violates the dignity of the loved ones,” it mentioned.
Moreover, the court observed in its order that it is alarming that the federal government does not seem to have maintained the record and report of the earlier commission – headed by Justice (retd) Kamal Mansoor Alam. The report and recommendations of the Federal Task Force on Missing Persons also seem to have fallen on deaf ears, it noted.
The order said the existence of the phenomenon of “enforced disappearances” is intolerable and, more so, when overwhelming evidence manifests that it has remained and continues to be an “undeclared tacit policy of the state”. On the involvement of the armed forces in such cases, the court observed they cannot, under the Constitution, act on their own and it was the federal government’s responsibility to oversee them.
“It is the duty of the federal government, i.e the prime minister and members of the cabinet, to ensure that the constitutional scheme is not violated,” the order said. “The buck stops with the federal government and it is solely to be held accountable for any subversive act or omission of the armed forces,” the court added.