Right to life

Truly, the right to life is the most fundamental of all the rights provided to citizens. That has been affirmed and enshrined in all constitutions of the world. No citizen can enjoy the pleasure of constitutional guarantees until he surrenders his life and property at the mercy of the state and its organs. And so, in return the constitution provides him all the fundamental rights, including the right to live freely. But if the state does not protect the fundamental rights of a citizen, then it is the duty of the judiciary - being the custodian of the Constitution - to rescue and provide relief to the hapless citizens. The judiciary has been entrusted with the task of upholding the Constitution and zealously guarding its values and the oath administered to a judge ordains him to uphold the office, as a citadel of public justice and security to fulfil the constitutional role assigned to the judiciary. In this context, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has initiated investigation of a large number of people - the Missing Persons Case - whose whereabouts are not known. Their families have alleged that their relatives were arrested illegally during the Musharraf era. Depriving people of liberty without any genuine reason is, indeed, a flagrant violation of contractual obligations from a state directly and the executive, legislature and judiciary indirectly. Thus, the families of the missing persons have asked the SC to help them and their relatives, missing since years, exercise their right to life as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. The Constitution provides liberty to citizens under Articles 4 and 9. Pakistan has recently ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT). Article 9 of the ICCPR elaborates: Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty, except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. So, it is a mockery of the law that these ill-fated Pakistanis have neither been formally charged, nor detained under any federal or provincial law. By and large, the Pakistani government is not following the constitutional or other legal procedures in the case of missing persons. This shows that it has been clearly negating both the constitutional obligation and the international human rights principles. We have to keep in mind that nations are remembered and honoured by their international obligations and commitments. Unfortunately, our standard of commitment towards the missing persons, in terms of the obligation of international conventions, is not serious and prudent. Under these circumstances, the SCs intervention, at the behest of the victims families, is justified and warranted. The court has constituted a Judicial Commission for the missing persons case under the supervision of two retired High Court judges. Presently, the commission is in the process of recording and collecting evidences of these persons, since the government has refused to acknowledge their arrest or detention. The victims families are producing all possible evidence before the court to prove that their relatives were abducted from either their houses or businesses and held without any charges. So, if the SC is willing to take up the challenge and lead the way to preserve and protect the Constitution by going an extra mile, we can hope to salvage these enforced disappearances. Without doubt, our judiciary has shown that it has the power and will to get things done and the same is expected in the missing persons case. Also, it will be better if besides the commendable job that the judiciary is doing - the government helps these missing persons to reunite with their families as soon as possible. Lets have that Pakistan which was envisaged by its founding fathers some 63 years ago in the holy month of Ramzan. The writer is an ex-judge and advocate based in Islamabad. Email: judgemajid@hotmail.com

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt