LAHORE: The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has decided to pursue an appeal against a landmark verdict of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) regarding the missing persons issue that declared enforced disappearances as a “crime against humanity”.
This was revealed in a session of a division bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, which was hearing five appeals filed against a judgement given by Justice Ather Minallah in the case of missing software engineer Sajid Mehmood.
In July this year, IHC’s Justice Minallah, in his judgement on a petition filed by Mehmood’s wife Mahera Sajid, had directed the government to provide monetary relief to families of the missing persons, and for the police to get to the bottom of the issue.
Of the five appeals filed against the verdict, two had been filed by the caretaker government. Since then, the PTI government has also decided to pursue the appeal, despite their earlier promises to help and support missing persons.
In August, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari had also promised that the PTI government would make enforced disappearances a crime in the penal code. However, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Irshad Kayani confirmed during the latest hearing that the government had actually asked him to pursue the appeal, let alone indicating to withdraw the appeal.
On Monday, lawyer of Ms Mahera Sajid, Umer Gilani had expressed his surprise at finding that the federal government had decided to go forward with the appeal despite their claims of helping missing persons.
“Remember the landmark judgement Islamabad High Court recently gave in favor of families of Missing Persons? Turns out that Imran Khan’s Government (acting through the offices of the Attorney General and Advocate General) has decided to pursue appeals against it. Hearing tomorrow,” he tweeted.
He added, “Dragging the families of missing persons in courts and depriving them of whatever little comfort some courageous judges have tried to offer? Is this the PTI’s official policy on Missing Persons’ issue? I am sure the PTI could do better.”
‘GULF BETWEEN WORDS AND ACTIONS’:
After the Wednesday’s hearing, the lawyer said that the DAG had confirmed the government’s decision in open court.
“You can’t promise support to missing persons and then, at the same time, actively litigate against them. There’s a gulf between words and actions. I urge conscientious PTI leaders to intervene while intervention is still possible and bridge the gulf.”
Meanwhile, the court also heard from the capital’s top cop and the investigating officer (IO) in the case, who had been directed to appear before the court in person and explain what efforts had been made to recover the people missing from Islamabad. A joint investigation team probing cases of enforced disappearances has been directed by the court to submit a progress report within the next three weeks.
The IO confirmed to Justice Farooq that he thought security agencies were involved in the abduction, at which Justice Kayani commented that it was a difficult state of affairs when the state itself became involved in such crimes.
He also said that state officials should put themselves in the place of families who are suffering because of these enforced disappearances.