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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday said that the ultimate responsibility of law and order in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) was that of the federal cabinet.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah stated this, while hearing a case of a missing person, Imran Khan, whose mother petitioned for safe release of her son who is a computer engineer and was working in the UAE.

The bench noted that the joint investigation team (JIT) after concluding investigations had formed an opinion that it was a case of "enforced disappearance" and the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances also treated the case as an "enforced disappearance".

It added that the security, wellbeing and safety of a citizen were constitutional obligations of the State, and the alleged disappearance in the case in hand had taken place in 2015, while the alleged crime scene was in the ICT.

The court noted that the ICT had a total area of 1,400 square miles, which was directly controlled and supervised by the federal government, and the alleged disappearance had taken place in 2015, and till date, the State had failed in tracing the whereabouts of the petitioner's son.

Justice Minallah noted that the ultimate responsibility of law and order in the 1,400 square miles area of the ICT was that of the federal cabinet.

"As a corollary, the latter i.e. the worthy prime minister and members of the federal cabinet would become responsible for failure on part of the State to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizens because the "buck stops at the top". "Enforced disappearance" is the most heinous crime and intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution," said the IHC chief justice.

He added that the worst victims of an "enforced disappearance" were the loved ones of the citizen who goes missing. Their pain and agony is indeed unimaginable.

The petitioner's son went missing in 2015 and the State functionaries have declared it to be a case of "enforced disappearance".

Justice Minallah further said, "The State itself acknowledges its complacency and yet the petitioner has been exposed to unimaginable agony and suffering. Who should be held responsible when the alleged disappearance takes place from 1,400 square mile area of the Islamabad Capital Territory? The buck stops at the top."

"Why the Federal Government i.e. the worthy Prime Minister and members of the Federal Cabinet may not be declared to be responsible for alleged "enforced disappearances" from the Islamabad Capital Territory? Why in the instant case this Court should not declare every Prime Minister and member of the Cabinet responsible who have held the respective public offices from the date when the petitioner's son went missing till his whereabouts have been traced or at least a satisfactory explanation is given for the latter's absence," maintained the IHC bench.

The court summoned the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) for his assistance regarding the questions highlighted above.

It hoped the AGP would submit a list of the Prime Ministers and members of the Federal Cabinet who have held the said offices since 2015 till the next date of hearing (February 18).

According to the petitioner, Imran Khan was picked up from his home in Sector G-10 of Islamabad and was taken to some unknown location in a double-cabin vehicle six years ago.

The family got registered an FIR with the local police after his disappearance.

However, the police failed to recover him despite a lapse of five years.

Then, the petitioner took up the matter with the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances and during the hearing by the commission it was concluded that the case of Imran fell under enforced disappearances and law enforcement agencies were asked to find his whereabouts.

The petition requested the court that the officials concerned namely secretaries of interior and defense, the directors general of Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, commissioner and Inspector General of the Islamabad police be directed to recover Imran.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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