ISLAMABAD - Ahead of the hearing of an all important case about missing persons in the Supreme Court today (Thursday), the new military chief on Wednesday visited country’s premier spy agency headquarters reportedly vis-à-vis representing the army’s perspective in the apex court.
A brief military statement, however, attempted to downplay the event’s significance saying the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif was given briefing on security issues during his visit to the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters, the first one since he assumed charge as Pakistan’s 15th army chief.
Intelligence sources said the army chief’s visit largely concerned the missing persons issue while he was also briefed on the security situation at the Western border. They believed the new military chief did not want confrontation with any state institution and he would show compliance with the Supreme Court’s directives on missing persons.
The general is said to have directed the ISI officials to ‘find a way out’ to deal with the issue. Following the fresh development, the officials hoped, there might be a ‘breakthrough’ in the undeclared judiciary-military standoff prevalent for the last few days. Two reported options on this count under purported consideration are: Either to allow a meeting between the detainees and their families or to produce the ‘less hardcore’ terror suspects in the court.
“He probably realises that these are his early days at office and following the path of confrontation would simply brew more problems,” an insider referred to General Raheel Sharif’s reported views on missing persons’ issue.
ISI Director General Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam Abbasi, Counter-Terrorism Operations DG Maj-Gen Naveed Mukhtar, DG (Security) Maj-Gen Sajjad Rasul and ISI Sector Commanders in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Maj-Gen Iftikhar Aamir and Maj-Gen Tayyab Azam gave briefings to the COAS, sources informed.
The SC on Tuesday gave a two-day deadline (expiring today) to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to produce 30 undeclared detainees out of 35 who were unlawfully kept in the military’s detainment centres. Of them, the security agencies claim, three have been released but identities of two of them have not been disclosed citing ‘security reasons’. Two captives have expired under mysterious circumstances. Whether these detainees were tortured to death or died their natural deaths has not been ascertained since any independent medical autopsy was never conducted, it is further learnt.
The SC’s previously-given deadlines to Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (r) Asif Yasin Malik and Frontier Corps Inspector General (FC IG) in Balochistan, Maj-Gen Ijaz Shahid, on producing missing persons have not been complied with. The outgoing Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has observed that the court would summon the army chief if the security agencies kept on defying its orders on presenting the missing persons.
In a landmark development in May this year, the intelligence agencies were made to produce seven of the 11 missing persons before a three-member bench led by the CJ after the court took a strong exception to their unlawful internment at the hands of the security agencies. The intelligence sleuths had picked these prisoners from outside Adiala Jail Rawalpindi in 2010 after they were acquitted of the terrorism charges by the lower courts.
Military officials say the 11 suspects were involved in planning terror attempts on the military personnel and installations including the suicide attack that targeted an ISI bus in November 2007. Four of the captives have died while the remaining seven have been put to trial under the Army Act 1952 at the army’s detainment centre in Parachinar, Kurram Agency. They are identified as: Muhammad Shafiq, Muhammad Mazhar, Shafiqur Rehman, Abdul Majid, Gul-e-Noroz, Abdul Basit and Muhammad Niaz. Abdul Saboor, Muhammad Tehseen, Ghulam Said and Muhammad Amir had died during detention.
In Wednesday’s visit, General Raheel Sharif also got briefing on the security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, its frontier regions (FRs), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) and Balochistan. The intelligence sources said the army chief would soon visit the field formations and border coordination centres (BCCs) in Fata to review the security situation.