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Spy agencies warned over missing persons

By Nasir Iqbal 2014-02-18
ISLAMABAD: Impelled by oftrepeated allegations of spy agencies` role in enforced disappearances, the government has finally warned them to rectify the situation or face severe consequences.

`I have warned them of consequences and told them that severe action would be taken,` Defence Secretary Asif Yasin Malik said while informing a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk about his meetings with senior army officers.

He had told the bench on Feb 13 that he would convene a special meeting of all `stakeholders` including relevant officers from the army as well as the intelligence agencies and the provincial departments, about the Balochistan missing persons issue and apprise the court on Feb 20 about the outcome.

Legal observers are attaching great significance to the statementof retired Lt Gen Malik, who himself is facing contempt charges for not arranging local government elections in the cantonment areas, describing it as the first acknowledgment by government of the role of spy agencies in missing persons` cases.

`The secretary`s statement marks a positive change in the approach of the government if they are really giving final warnings and seeking explanation from the intelligence agencies from which they earlier used to take dictation, Amina Masood Janjua, chairperson of the Defence of Human Rights Trust, said. `Very soon the results will show whether whatever the secretary is saying is true or false,` she said.

The bench was hearing the case of Hafiz Mohammad Jameel, a Kashmiri labour contractor living in Rawalpindi who had been picked up on Jan 20, 2011, from outside his house on Misriyal Road.

On Feb 3, the court had said that the government should either present the missing man or the defence secretary should appear to justify the enforced disappearance.

The order was issued after Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar read out the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED) which had held that in the light of evidence presented and verified inthe presence of representatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) agencies and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) the case prima facie appeared to be of enforced disappearance.

The commission had ordered the secretary to take action against those involved in the matter.

He informed the court that he had held a detailed meeting with the army authorities at the highest level on the Balochistan issue, during which the case of Hafiz Jameel and other missing persons had also been discussed.

In the given circumstances, the intelligence agencies were working under stress, but he had issued a stern warning to them of severe action if the issue of missing persons was not settled, he said.

The secretary sought two weeks to ascertain the whereabouts of the man, saying he had to conduct complete ground check of at least 43 internment centres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The court told him to come prepared on Feb 20 to show progress on the matter during the hearing of the Balochistan missing person cases.

On Feb 12, Punjab police after probing into the whereabouts of another missing man, Khawar Mehmood, had accused the ISI of being behind the enforced disappearance.