Govt committee to ‘deliberate’ on enforced disappearances

The federal government on Monday constituted a seven-member committee for “deliberation of a policy” related to enforced disappearances in the country after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) instructed the heads of the government to explain how disappearances “became state policy”.

According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Interior, the committee will be headed by Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar and comprise Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah, Minister for Power Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri, Minister for Communications Asad Mahmood, Minister for Defence Production Muhammad Israr Tareen, Minister for Maritime Affairs Faisal Ali Subzwari, and Minister for Science and Technology Agha Hassan Baloch.

Recommendations or reports of the committee will be presented in the federal cabinet for further deliberations. “The interior ministry shall provide secretarial support to the committee,” it said. The notification added that the committee will also be allowed to co-opt eminent jurists, representatives of human rights organisations and other members “it deems appropriate”.

The development comes after IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, in a 15-page order on Sunday, directed the federal government to serve notices on former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and all successive chief executives, including Imran Khan and incumbent premier Shehbaz Sharif, for following an “undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances”. He passed the orders in a case related to the disappearance of journalist Mudassar Mahmood Naro and five other people after their petitions were fixed for final arguments, but the federal government requested an adjournment.

In his order, Justice Minallah said: “Retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and all other successor chief executives i.e. the former prime ministers, including the incumbent holder of the office shall submit their respective affidavits explaining why the court may not order proceedings against them for alleged subversion of the Constitution in the context of undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances and thus putting national security at risk by allowing the involvement of law enforcement agencies, particularly the armed forces.”

“Pervez Musharraf has candidly conceded in his autobiography In the Line of Fire that ‘enforced disappearances’ was an undeclared policy of the state,” he said. The judge pointed out that the onus was on each chief executive to “rebut the presumption and to explain why they may not be tried for the offence of high treason”.