Pakistan: PM Kakar again skips IHC hearing on Baloch missing students case


Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Monday again failed to appear before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a case pertaining to missing Baloch students.

As Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani resumed hearing a petition regarding the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, he observed, “The purpose of summoning the prime minister was to inquire why the state’s premier is failing in his duties.”

The commission was established in 2011 to trace missing persons and fix responsibility on the individuals or organisations responsible for it.

The IHC had previously summoned PM Kakar on Nov 29 but as he did not appear before the court, it had warned that a case could be registered against the interim premier and others if they failed to reunite the missing Baloch students with their families.

During the Nov 29 hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan had informed the court that out of 50 missing persons, 22 had been recovered, while the whereabouts of 28 others were still unknown.

On January 10, Justice Kayani had remarked that a day would come when intelligence officials would also be held accountable and face prosecution for cases. In a subsequent hearing, he had summoned PM Kakar for a second time, observing: “The punishment of enforced disappearances should be the death penalty.”

During today’s hearing, the IHC summoned Kakar for a third time, adjourning the hearing till February 28. PTI leader Sher Afzal Marwat also appeared before the court, detailing an alleged raid on his house by the Islamabad police.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, AGP Awan appeared before the IHC and was asked about PM Kakar’s whereabouts. The AGP replied that the premier was in Karachi.

When asked about the whereabouts of the defence and interior ministers, Awan said that the two were also busy. The interior ministry’s secretary then appeared before the court, at which Justice Kayani asked why the defence ministry’s secretary was not present.

The judge highlighted that today was the 24th hearing in the case.

“The petition was filed in 2022 and a commission had been formed. It took us two years to recover our citizens who did not even have any criminal case registered against them.

“There was no case against them — including any drug, murder, or theft case — let alone a terror case,” Justice Kayani noted. He observed that “no documents or information” was shared with the court in the past two years.

Addressing AGP Awan, he said, “You had submitted an affidavit that no person would go missing after today. [Yet] a person is missing from Islamabad’s F-6 without a first information report against him.

“The purpose of summoning the prime minister was to inquire why the state’s premier is failing in his duties,” the IHC judge said.

“We have charges against our institutions regarding enforced disappearances. If the prime minister, defence minister and secretary, and the interior minister and secretary cannot perform their duties then they should leave their posts.”

AGP Awan requested that the incoming government review the matter instead of the caretaker setup. “When the elected government will come, it will look at the matter afresh,” he said.

At this, the judge noted: “There was one government for three-and-a-half years, then another for 16 months, and then the caretakers but nothing came out of it. There are direct allegations against institutions here.”

At one point, Justice Kayani said, “I will constitute a committee comprising the heads of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), MI (Military Intelligence) and the IB (Intelligence Bureau).

“Why summon the prime minister or the ministers? Let’s make a committee comprising those on whom there are allegations,” he remarked.

At this, the AGP once again urged the court to adjourn the matter till the elected government assumed its responsibilities.

During the hearing, PTI leader Sher Afzal Marwat also appeared before the court and said: “Yesterday, the Islamabad police and [state] institutions conducted a raid at my house.

“I was present at the house, my children were present yet the doors of my house were broken down. The Islamabad police are the biggest criminals,” he claimed.

The PTI lawyer further alleged that his house was raided without a warrant, adding, “I ran away. If I had not run away, then even I would have been a missing person. They can arrest me from anywhere.”

“If the Islamabad inspector general goes to jail for 10 days, then no one would dare to [raid houses],” Marwat said.

The IHC then issued directives to the interior secretary to summon the Islamabad police chief and the head of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) at the next hearing.

The court recalled that the deputy commissioner had made wrong use of the Maintenance of Public Order ordinance, for which a contempt case was under way.

“I am ashamed that all this is happening with a lawyer and an MNA-elect. They are not talking about Lakki Marwat but about Islamabad’s F-8,” Justice Kayani remarked.

“Attorney general sahib, is a political government even being formed or not?” the judge asked.

Awan then urged the court to give him time till the last week of March.

In her arguments, human rights lawyer Imaan Mazari said, “A few people were recovered but then in February, people went missing again.”

She recalled that even though the AGP had submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court, people went missing in Balochistan. “The policy of forced disappearances is now of the state,” she added.

Marwat further said that “26 parliamentarians of the PTI” were abducted in the last nine months. “PTI leaders were abducted and then released in return for Rs20-30 million,” he said.

“In abduction cases in Islamabad, the Islamabad police themselves are involved. Since the incumbent IG has taken charge, he has done this to Islamabad,” he alleged.

“Thirty-six cases were filed against me for being affiliated with the PTI. I am on bail in all cases yet there was a raid last night,” Marwat stated.

“If any person is abducted from within the premises of the IHC, the interior secretary, Islamabad IG and the CTD incharge would be responsible for it,” Justice Kayani remarked.

Referring to Marwat’s statements, the judge noted, “He has told us honestly that uniformed men came [and] did not name any institution.”

The court ordered AGP Awan to submit a list of the missing who had allegedly gone missing recently. Justice Kayani said that he would issue an order for constituting a three-member committee of the director generals of the country’s intelligence agencies.

“The entire world is watching what is taking place in Islamabad. A crime will remain a crime, whether there is a caretaker government or an elected one. The responsibility of forced disappearances is on the state,” he observed.

“First, they abduct people, then hand over them to the police and then say that the court releases them,” the judge noted.

“No one is above the law. The law is binding on everyone. Everyone is laughing at us. These days, even children are laughing at them,” Justice Kayani observed. “What would I, the lawyers sitting here and journalists tell their children after returning home?” he wondered.

“There will be a three-member committee. Whichever government is present, those responsible will remain the same,” Justice Kayani remarked.

“I will deal with the Islamabad IG and the CTD in charge separately. They have to provide protection to the people. If they cannot understand that, then make them understand,” he added.

The court then directed the defence secretary to brief the officials concerned about the proceedings. It ordered AGP Awan to brief the DGs of the three intelligence agencies. Subsequently, the IHC once again summoned PM Kakar and the interim interior and defence ministers on the next hearing, adjourning the case till February 28.

Justice Kayani said he was not summoning any elected prime minister as he would start the case afresh after a new government was sworn in. “Tell the prime minister to not go to Karachi at the next hearing [and] appear before the high court. The interim premier is not a full-time premier. Tell him that coming to the court is not an issue,” the judge stated.

51 more enforced disappearances in 2023

According to a report published by non-governmental organisation (NGO) Defence of Human Rights (DHR) in December last year, Pakistan reported 51 more cases of enforced disappearances in 2023.

“The total number of cases stands at 3,120, with 51 cases registered in 2023 alone. Notably, 595 individuals have been released and reunited with their families, 246 people have been traced, and 88 cases have sadly resulted in extrajudicial killings,” DHR said.

According to the report, 17 missing persons from Azad Jammu and Kashmir were released and the whereabouts of two others were traced while one was extrajudicially killed while 20 remained missing.

Out of the 82 missing persons from Balochistan, the whereabouts of 67 remained unknown, 12 were released, two were traced and one was extrajudicially killed.

In Islamabad, 47 people remained missing while 32 were released, seven were traced and three were extrajudicially killed.

Out of the 1,091 missing persons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 121 were released, 792 remained missing, 151 were traced and 27 were extrajudicially killed. In Punjab, 343 were released, 323 remained missing, 76 were traced and 46 were extrajudicially killed.

In Sindh, 134 people remained missing, 70 were released, eight were traced and 10 were extrajudicially