Pakistan: Aitzaz moves SC against citizens going ‘missing’


ISLAMABAD: Senior politician and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan on Wednesday filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court against the practice of enforced disappearances.

Ahsan, despite being a PPP central leader, always had a soft spot for the PTI, which has been facing a crackdown ever since its attacks on military and civilian installations on May 9 in response to its chairman Imran Khan’s arrest from the premises of the Islamabad High Court in connection with a corruption case.

In his plea, Ahsan took up the cases of four politicians affiliated with the party – Farrukh Habib, Usman Dar, Sadaqat Ali Abbasi and pro-PTI Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid.

They were believed to have gone “missing” and lashed out at the PTI’s policies after their return.

Ahsan also mentioned the case of TV host Imran Riaz Khan — known for his pro-PTI stance — who went “missing” for four months and came back home last month.

The senior politician filed the plea in the top court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution through Advocate Latif Khosa.

In his plea, Ahsan asked the SC to accept the instant petition and declare that enforced disappearances were violative of Articles 4 (right of individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law, etc), 9 (security of person), 10 (safeguards as to arrest and detention), 14 (inviolability of dignity of man, etc), 19 (freedom of speech, etc) and 25 (equality of citizens) of the Constitution.

Ahsan in his petition requested the SC to declare that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances did not “adequately comply with legal and international standards” and asked the court to form a new body for this purpose.

He suggested that the new “effective and purposeful commission” should be led by a SC justice with two years ahead of the other top court judges in office.

He further proposed that the commission should include the presidents of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the high courts’ bar associations; chairpersons of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and National Commission on Status of Women; Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general (DG), Intelligence Bureau additional DG and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists president.

Ahsan in his plea also took up the matter of Baloch missing persons.

He maintained that the issue had “historically and disproportionately beleaguered the Baloch people”.

The petition read that Baloch students had been subjected to short-term disappearances in recent times. It particularly highlighted the case of Dr Deen Muhammad Baloch.

Ahsan disputed the figure stated by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar that there were 50 missing persons in Balochistan, arguing that it was not backed up by the official data.

In his petition, the PPP leader requested the SC to issue directions to the federal and provincial governments to submit a list of all disappeared persons in state custody to the court.

Ahsan also sought orders to the federal and provincial governments to “prepare and submit a report probing and identifying the law enforcement and other officers responsible for the practice of enforced disappearances” to the SC within four weeks.

He requested the court to issue a writ of habeas corpus for the release of all disappeared persons in the custody of the State.

He also asked the SC to order that all such disappeared persons should be produced within four weeks before a competent jurisdiction high court.

Ahsan argued that there had been a surge of enforced disappearances and “re-appearances” of citizens in recent times. He continued that the victims included journalists, politicians, bureaucrats and other dissenting voices.

The plea pointed out “similar facts” that were common among the cases.

“Each one disappears, police deny arrest, no one in the family is aware of his whereabouts and all are fervently anxious, [and] none is produced before a magistrate, each one upon ‘re-appearance’ cannot recall where he has been, and each one switches political loyalties and denounces previous political party and its chairman,” the petition read.

“Each passing day, citizens ‘disappear’ only to ‘re-appear’ after they publicly express support for the state narrative. Countless citizens still remain missing. The state has a duty to protect its citizens — it must not subjugate its own people,” it maintained.

“That surely as the guardian of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, this honourable court will not look the other way, while the State acts with total impunity,’ it added.

Ahsan argued that the “crime against humanity of enforced disappearances” was clearly violative of the Constitution.

“Therefore, this court can also apply the principles enshrined in the 2006 Convention in order to achieve the ends of justice,” Ahsan suggested in the plea.

He added that such disappearances violated a person’s fundamental rights as well as Pakistan’s international law obligations, noting that the country was a signatory to the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”.

The petition has named the State; the governments and police chiefs of all the four provinces, the Islamabad IGP, and the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances as respondents in the