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Killing of missing persons continues undeterred

BODY of a `missing person`, Roohullah Khan, stuffed in a gunnysack was recently found dumped in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency, adjacent to Peshawar. A few days ago a bench of the Peshawar High Court had expressed displeasure over Mr Roohullah`s disappearance as his relatives had alleged that he was taken away by sleuths of an intelligence agency from outside the Peshawar Central Prison soon after his release on the orders of a local anti-terrorism court.

The bench, including Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Asadullah Khan Chamkani, had passed strict order in that case on Nov 12 and summoned the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial police officer, inspector general of prisons and superintendent of central prison on Dec 10. It directed that these of ficials should appear and explain what mechanism should be adopted to protect the released prisoners from taking away in illegal manner by the intelligence agencies.

The bench had also issued directives to the federal secretaries of defence and interior ministries, asking them to submit sworn affidavits and inform the bench concerning the whereabouts of Mr Roohullah.

The elements involved in disappearance of Mr Roohullah instead of informing the court about his whereabouts sent his body carrying marks of torture on Nov 21, conveying a clear message to the court that they would continue with their routine practice of violating the laws of the land.The aggrieved relatives collected the body and then staged protest demonstrations outside the high court and Peshawar Press Club.

They were carrying the body and demanding that his killers should be brought to book.

According to police record, Mr Roohullah was a `would-be suicide bomber` and initially arrested on May 24, 2013 along with his mother, three brothers and another person by the officials of Chamkani police station from their residence at TarnabFarm area. Police alleged that during the raid they had recovered explosives. An anti-terrorism court acquitted all the six suspects in Aug 2013.

While the other five persons were released, Mr Roohullah was charged in another case pertaining to targeting election office of a po-litical party before May 11 general elections through an improvised explosive device. He was granted bail in that case and when he came out of prison on Sept 6, 2013, he was allegedly taken away by unidentified persons while his family members witnessed the occurrence.

A habeas corpus petition was filed by Mr Asadullah, brother of the suspect, stating that his brother has now been in illegal detention. That case has now been pending before the court.

The case of Mr Roohullah indicates that the phenomenon of `enforced disappearance` or `missing persons` is far from overand there is no hope that hundreds of missing persons could be traced easily. The intelligence agencies, which are believed to be behind the disappearance of this large number of people, are apparently not willing to mend their ways.

Presently, there are around 500 habeas corpus petitions pending before the PHC. The deputy attorney general appearing for the federal government has constantly beenseeK1Hg more time trom ine court for tracing these people, but on next hearing he often return empty-handed.

Last year the court was informed that around 900 persons were shifted to internment centres. Later, the pace of shifting of detainees to internment centres slowed down and only few of thesepersons were shifted to centers since then.

During previous hearing on Nov 27 the court was informed that 10 of the detainees were shifted to internment centres.

Last year, the chief justice had taken notice of reports concerning dumping of around 26 bodies stuffed in gunnysacks in different areas, including Peshawar. In that case the court had issued directives to the police investigation officers from time to time, but no noteworthy progress could take place as in most of these cases the police remained clueless about the killers.

Several of such cases are pending before the court wherein a habeas corpus petitionwas filed by a relative of a missing person and the person was subsequently killed allegedly in custody. In one of the cases an old man Qazi Fazal Ahmad demanded that killers of his missing son, Qazi Baseer, should be arrested and punished. He stated that on Sept 25, 2012, the court had ordered the ministry of defence to either release the alleged detainee or shift him to an internment centre. However, he said that on Oct 9, 2012, he received information that dead body of the detainee was dumped at Lassan Nawab in Mansehra district.

Mr Ahmad alleged that his son was taken away by the Elite Force of police on July 15, 2011, from his residence at Speen Khak, Nowshera, and another boy named Shahid Afridi was also picked from a nearby seminary. Later, he said, Shahid Afridi was set free and he had also recorded his statement before the high court, but his son remained missing.

A lawyer dealing with the missing persons` cases believes that these cases of killing of missing persons could not be resolved by police as mostly intelligence agencies were involved in them and the police were scared of them.

He questioned how a police official could visit the office of an intelligence agency for investigating these cases in the existing situation. `These agencies could even take away or kill a police official if he tries to interrogate any of its officials in such cases,` he said.