Chief executives responsible
for missing people,
must be prosecuted: IHC

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah has said that the chief executive is responsible for the disappearance of people, why not impose Article 6 on all chief executives.

In the case of the disappearance of journalist Mudassar Naro on Monday, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court has hinted to prosecute all the concerned chief executives in the case of missing persons.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan listening the ordeal from Mudassar Naru’s family during a meeting at the PM House on the instruction of Islamabad High Court.

During the hearing in the Islamabad High Court, Chief Justice Athar Minallah said that the trial of the concerned chief executives would be started by applying Article 6 in the case of missing persons. A chief executive has admitted in a book that people have been raised. Let’s start with the beginning. Chief executives take responsibility themselves or hold their subordinates accountable. Missing people and not knowing who is responsible is the worst form of corruption. If anyone is against corruption, then first stop this process.

Responding to the Chief Justice’s queries, the Attorney General said that why only the Chief Executive, the other responsible persons should also be questioned. The Chief Executive who was sentenced to Article 6, we could not implement it. Some diseases are cured not by decisions but by the people. If 1 million people take to the streets, the process of disappearance will stop. This is what has happened in Iran.

Giving the Attorney General four weeks to prepare, the Chief Justice said that you should assist in accordance with the Constitution on January 18, we decide.

Islamabad High Court, Chief Justice Athar Minallah

According to Dawn and other news outlets, Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Monday expressed severe displeasure at the practice of enforced disappearances, saying “chief executives” of the country were ultimately answerable for such acts and at one point wondered if they should be charged with Article 6 of the Constitution (high treason).

Justice Minallah gave these remarks during an exchange with Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan while hearing a petition filed by the family of missing journalist Mudassar Naaru.

In August 2018, Naaru went on vacation to the Kaghan valley, but has since been missing. He was last spotted near the Kaghan river. Initially, his family and friends thought that he may have accidentally fallen into the river and drowned, but his body was never found. Others began speculating that Naaru may have killed himself — a claim instantly rejected by the family, saying he had no signs of despair.

His family subsequently tried to register a first information report against “unidentified persons”. When the police refused to cooperate, they were forced to approach civil rights organisations but to no avail. A few months following his disappearance, one of his friends said he had spotted Naaru at a detention centre for ‘missing persons’.

In a previous hearing of the case, it had been asserted that Naaru, who was also a social activist and human rights defender, had been receiving threats allegedly from officials of state institutions before he went missing.

In the hearing today, the IHC chief justice called enforced disappearances a “stain on Pakistan” and the “worst form of corruption” as he noted that former chief executives nowadays take pride in the practice by writing about it in their books.

“Had the state existed somewhere, why would the affected family need to approach the court, and why would we need to bring this to the prime minister’s notice?” the chief justice questioned.

The attorney general said that enforced disappearances would stop if a million people took to the streets, saying such a mass protest got the practice discontinued in Iran.

The judge remarked that Naaru’s family should have found justice before they approached the court. “We expected that the federal cabinet would do something after meeting children of the missing journalist.”

The attorney general said “our geography, unfortunately, warrants us to take into consideration national security as well.”

In a family picture missing journalist Mudassar Naru with wife

To this, Justice Minallah said the primary purpose of national security was the protection of citizens.

“Should we impose Article-6 on all chief executives in the missing persons’ case and begin their trial?” the chief justice wondered.

The attorney general explained that Article-6 cannot be implemented on those who were [previously] convicted under the same section. “We can create a hall of shame with pictures of all former chief executives in it,” the chief justice remarked.

“Why just the ex-chief executives? All others should be added,” AGP Khan replied.

Justice Minallah also wondered if the press was able to report on enforced disappearances freely. “If the press was [indeed] independent, the pictures of missing person’s families would have been in paper every day.”

The attorney general sought additional time from the court, saying “I have never contested such a case in my life.” The court granted four weeks to the attorney general to assist the IHC in the case and adjourned the hearing till January 18, 2022.

PM’s meeting with family

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan had met the family of Naaru and ordered officials to submit a “complete report” on his whereabouts.

The premier’s meeting with Naaru’s parents and his minor son at the Prime Minister’s Office came a week after the IHC had directed Mazari to ensure the meeting took place.

Less than four years old son of missing Mudassar Naru holds a banner during a recent demonstration.

In October 2018, his father, the petitioner, approached the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances. The initiation of proceedings by the Commission led to the registration of a criminal case i.e. FIR No.208/2018 followed by the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

The petitioner stated that he was not kept informed regarding the JIT’s proceedings nor was its report provided to him. From 2018 till the filing of the petition this year, the Commission has reportedly held several meetings/hearings. According to the JIT, the journalist has gone ‘missing’ on his own.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday met the family of journalist Mudassar Naaru who went missing in 2018 and instructed officials to prepare a detailed report on the disappearance.

The interaction took place after the Islamabad High Court asked the country’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari to arrange it. 

Wife of missing Mudassar Naru (left) holds a banner for the recovery of his husband in a demonstration in Islamabad. She was campaigning for his husband but sadly died in sleep due to heart attack on 8th May 2021.

Naaru went missing while in the northern areas for vacation with his wife and infant son in 2018  (more than three years ago). In May this year his wife, who had been lobbying for him to be found, passed away in her sleep. 

“PM met with Mudassar Naaru’s parents & son this afternoon,” Mazari wrote in a Twitter post. “Parents gave details of what they had been going thru. PM reassured them & immed issued orders for complete report on Naaru’s whereabouts & on exactly what happened. Family expressed their confidence in PM’s commitment.”

The Islamabad High Court observed while hearing Naaru’s case recently called the problem of enforced disappearances a “crime against humanity,” adding that the buck stopped with the prime minister and his cabinet in such cases.

Meanwhile, the family of Naaru also issued a statement after meeting the PM, saying he “acknowledged his lack of awareness” about the incident of the journalist’s disappearance.

“He was unable to provide any conclusive information to the family given the fact that he was unaware of Mudassar Naaru’s case prior to the meeting,” the statement said.

However, after his conversation with the family, the prime minister assured them his office would get back to them with details of the missing journalist’s fate “within the next 2-3 days.”