Demanding answers – 19 Jun 2022

THE authorities cannot continue with their ostrich-like behaviour with regard to enforced disappearances. The matter a is too urgent and the violation of fundamental rights too grave for the government to be allowed to get away with its apparent lack of will to do anything to stop it from happening. On Friday, the Islamabad High Court admonished the federal government for not following through on its ruling of May 25 for the recovery of missing persons, and upped the ante by saying it could summon the country`s chief executive to demand an explanation. The IHC had directed the PML-N-led government to serve notices on retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and all successive chief executives for their `undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances`. It was incumbent on each of them, said the order, to rebut that view and explain why they should not be charged with high treason. Failing this, the previous and incumbent interior ministers were to appear before the bench, but the court`s ruling fell on deaf ears.

After former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry several years ago, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah is perhaps the first member of the bench to have so emphatically tried to get to the bottom of the issue of missing people. He has rightly declared that the buck stops with the government and that all state institutions some of them repeatedly accused of perpetrating enforced disappearances are subordinate to it as per the Constitution. The extent of the problem can be gauged from a report prepared by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances and submitted to the IHC, according to which only one-third of 8,463 missing persons have returned home since March 2011 after their whereabouts were traced. The commission has done an abysmal job in holding to account anyone for their involvement in this reprehensible tactic, and it is worth asking why retired justice Javed Iqbal, who resigned under a cloud as DG NAB, is still heading such an important body.

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