ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) stated on Wednesday that the responsibility for the disappearance of citizens in Pakistan rests with PM Imran Khan and his government.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, during the hearing of a case concerning the disappearance of journalist Mudassar Naaru, stated that it’s state’s responsibility to protect the lives of citizens.
Justice Athar Minallah further stated that the families of the missing persons were protesting on roads for years, but state’s response in this regard was unfortunate, while adding that “Like a mother, the state should treat the family of the missing persons.”
Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also appeared before the IHC bench. Justice Minallah while addressing Mazari said that the state showed no concern for the recovery of the missing journalist.
As a response, Mazari stated that the government considered enforced disappearances a serious crime and nobody was allowed to indulge in this heinous practice. She went on to add that she was in touch with various authorities for the recovery of Naaru.
Mazari further stated that the PM along with human rights activist Amna Janjua had protested against enforced disappearances in the past, while adding that the government was working on compensation for the family of the missing person on a monthly basis.
“The PM will definitely listen to Naaru’s family, but first we want to process the payment of expenses for them which will be done by next week,” stated Mazari while revealing that the affidavit had not been received yet, according to which the payment needed to be processed.
Justice Minallah stated that “if someone went missing in 2002 then why not impose fines on those responsible then, the then chief executive,” he said, adding that someone should be held responsible for the practice of enforced disappearances.
“Half of our lives have been spent in undemocratic regimes and this is their doing,” he added. At present, everyone, including the police and ministries, has gotten a free hand,” he said, adding that he was also talking about the state and the non-state actors.
Justice Minallah further said that the matter must be taken to the Prime Minister and a meeting with the cabinet members should be arranged, while adding that the PM along with the cabinet members should pay the compensation to the missing person’s family instead of the state so that the issue could be concluded once and for all.
The IHC CJ told Mazari to ensure that the missing person’s family comes back “satisfied” after meeting the prime minister. “The responsibility of missing persons falls on the prime minister and the members of the cabinet. Instead of the state paying the compensation, why are the prime minister and cabinet members not paying it so that this issue can be eradicated?” he asked.
“If a person went missing in 2002, shouldn’t the chief executive at the time be held responsible for paying compensation?” Justice Minallah asked, adding that “state and non-state actors” were involved in enforced disappearances. “Someone needs to be held responsible,” he said.
The IHC CJ remarked that when a person disappears, their entire family suffers.
Agreeing with the judge, Mazari said that the rights of all citizens are equal. “The state’s response should be equal in every missing persons case,” she said, adding that past government’s had not taken any serious steps in this regard.
“Half of our lives have been spent under undemocratic governments and this is their doing,” the IHC CJ said.
In the written verdict, the IHC CJ observed that in the case of enforced disappearances, “the buck stops with the federal government i.e. the worthy prime minister and members of the federal cabinet”.
“It is their constitutional duty not only to find the missing person but to discharge the onus of satisfying the loved ones of the missing person that no state actor is involved nor complacent in their trauma and agony,” he observed.
Justice Minallah directed the human rights minister to ensure a meeting between the parents of the parents and children of the missing person with PM Imran before the next hearing.
Justice Minallah concluded by stating that “It doesn’t matter if allegations [against the state] are true or false, the family has been going door-to-door for three years now and this should stop right away.”
It is pertinent to note that the court has given directive to the government to satisfy Mudassar Naaru’s family by the next hearing and ordered Mazari to submit a reply at the next hearing, which is scheduled to be held on December 13.