Missing Baloch students: IHC raises question over accountability in intel agencies

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) conducted the hearing of a petition filed for the recovery of missing Baloch students on Wednesday.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani presided over the proceedings.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan presented a report on the recovered missing Balochs.

The judge inquired about the allegations of human rights violations detailed in the petition.

The petitioner's lawyer, Imaan Mazari, informed the court that on the same day, the caretaker prime minister [Anwaarul Haq Kakar] appeared before this court, a Baloch student was abducted, and the following day he was released in Rawalpindi.

Upon this, the court questioned if there was anyone accountable in intelligence agencies and if there were any intelligence agencies where there was self-accountability, noting that police officials often faced suspension for instances where they went beyond the law since they did not act clandestinely.

“My reservation against the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances is because they work with those [agencies] who are accused,” the judge stated, observing that those departments that operated under the law got regulated, but what about those which acted beyond the law.

The judge remarked that when someone's loved one went missing, this method or way of their disappearance instilled hatred within them. “If someone's brother is missing, imagine what his mother, sister, and daughter go through.”

He further stated that the police were better than all institutions because they carried out actions in front of everyone, whether right or wrong.

The court asked the AGP to inquire from the Ministry of Defence about the process of self-accountability within intelligence agencies. “There can be mistakes in the working, but that doesn't mean they are not accountable,” he added.

Justice Kayani said if someone was accused of terrorism, file a case and take action, but do not take extrajudicial action. “The role of intelligence agencies will be under the law, just like the FBI and other agencies; every institution has to work within their defined parameters. The court also has to work within its ambits.”

Remarking that there were a thousand ways to resolve any matter according to the law, the judge asked the AGP to tell him about the committee which was to be formed comprising representatives of the ISI, IB, and MI.

The AGP responded that they had contacted the Supreme Court regarding this matter.

The judge remarked that if you want to amend the order, file miscellaneous petitions and satisfy the court. He said if there were any objections to forming a committee, explain the reasons and satisfy the court.

Addressing the AGP, the judge stated that the petitioner's lawyer was informing that on the same day the caretaker prime minister made a statement in the court, a person was abducted; this shows that the prime minister's statements hold no significance.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing on the petition until May 21.

Back on Feb 28, caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar had appeared the court.

He had told the court no one could favour enforced disappearances.

“I am here on the orders of court. I myself hail from Balochistan and we are facing armed insurgency there,” Kakar had said.

He had added that allegations were levelled against the paramilitary forces and the institutions of counter-terrorism. “It is not good to accuse the entire state in this case,” the caretaker prime minister had said.

Kakar had informed the court that 90,000 people gave their lives in the war on terror but less than 90 suspects were awarded sentence.

“It was not the domain of caretaker government. I request the incoming government to look into it,” Kakar had said.

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