Illegal detentions: Court tells army to rein in errant agencies
PESHAWAR, April 12: Showing deep resentment at ‘illegal’ detention of a person for over 38 months, the Peshawar High Court on Thursday asked the General Headquarters (GHQ) and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) director general to form a high-powered team to check widespread illegal activities of ISI and other agencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Mian Fasihul Mulk observed: “It is more than essential to bring these agencies under control and discipline and their work is fully channelised as none will be permitted to act in this illegal manner in future and if any one defy and violate the law he should be tried by a court martial under the Army Act.”
The bench also summoned the sector in charge of ISI and the inspector general of prisons in some missing person cases.
It, especially the chief justice, expressed anger after a former detainee, Mir Mohammad Arshad, informed that he was kept in a basement for 38 months after he was interrogated only for three days. He informed that during his captivity his old mother could not sustain his disappearance and had died.
The chief justice asked: “Who will compensate him and his family who has undergone agonising period of 38 months is a big question mark for the army leadership?”
The bench observed that instead of taking action directly it would leave the matter to ISI DG and GHQ to constitute a high-powered team to check activities of ISI and other agencies.
“This court expects Pakistan Army, which has rendered great sacrifices for this country, to step into this matter quickly to regain what they have lost due to illegal acts of agencies,” it said.
The bench ordered dispatch of the copies of the order to the Army chief, GHQ, Rawalpindi, ISI’s DG and the defence ministry for compliance.
The former detainee informed the court that he ran a sanitary fitting shop and on January 10, 2009, he was stopped by the SHO of Hasthnagri police station and handed over to some plainclothesmen. When the bench asked if he ever attended any seminary, he replied in negative.
He told the court that he was taken away blindfolded and after a drive of three and a half hours, he reached a basement, where he detained.
Mr Arshad said basement had around 107 people and when he was freed, 17 persons were there. He said he could not identify the place where he was detained and was even not sure whether the place was in Peshawar or somewhere else.
The bench observed that this was not only a unique case as the court had been confronted with cases where fundamental rights were trampled under heavy boots of ISI and hundreds of cases of habeas corpus were pouring in.
“Many old parents, widows, children come up to the court with tears rolling down their faces but agency people have no mercy to show to their own people,” the chief justice observed.
The bench disposed of the petition regarding illegal detention of Mir Arshad as he did not want to further pursue the case.
During course of proceedings, the chief justice observed that vested interests within these agencies had been acting on their own without the permission of their superiors. He observed that he had constituted a team for tracing secret detention facilities of such people where innocent people had been detained for several months and even for years.
Meanwhile, another former detainee, Zahidullah, informed the bench that he and his brother, Sufaid, was taken into custody by police from the entrance of the Mardan district prison from where they were freed after a court granted them bail on January 20, 2011. He claimed that the two were taken to Saddar police station in Mardan from where persons in plainclothes took them away. He added that he was released after six-and-a-half months whereas his brother had still been missing.
During previous hearing into the petition filed by Sherzada Khan, father of the two brothers, the superintendent of the prison, Mohammad Anwer, and some constables had appeared and expressed ignorance about the incident.
SHO of Choora police station Nihar Ali informed the court that the two brothers were arrested in connection with a case registered under the Anti Terrorism Act on Jan 6, 2011, and later on they were sent to prison following which he was not aware what happened to them.
The bench observed that it had come to the conclusion that prison authority particularly superintendents were keeping close contact with secret agencies and they inform them whenever any person in such cases were released on bail from a prison. It was observed that such cases were increasing in which persons were picked up from outside prisons and disappeared for years.
The bench directed that the IG of Prisons should appear on May 10, the next date of hearing, to explain why action should not be taken against prison authorities as they were becoming accomplices with secret agencies causing disappearances and illegal detention; and why high level inquiry should not be ordered against them. It was further said facts mentioned very clear hints that both the brothers were kept in illegal detention by agencies, especially ISI, and therefore sector in charge of ISI directed to appear in person to explain why force operating under him indulging in activities which were unconstitutional.
Similarly, in another petition filed by Redi Gul, challenging alleged illegal detention of his son, Sanam Gul, since June 2011, the bench observed that two meetings of the Apex Committee comprising the provincial governor, chief minister and Peshawar crops commander were held. However, the bench observed that no visible signs available that any concrete steps were taken to retrieve the situation to normal.
The court ordered the sector in charge of the ISI to show up on May 10, the next date of hearing, and clarify the situation. In several other cases, the bench allowed more time to the deputy attorney general, Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand, to contact the ministries of defence and interior for tracing the respective missing persons.