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ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that it is not fair to blame the entire state for enforced disappearances.

A single bench of IHC Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, on Wednesday, heard a case related to the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances and a petition seeking recovery of missing Baloch students.

PM Kakar, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan, the caretaker interior minister, and the secretary interior appeared before the court.

Missing Baloch students case: PM summoned by court

Kakar stated before the IHC bench that the government is facing an armed struggle in Balochistan and the armed individuals are fighting the state.

He asserted that the government is working according to the Constitution and law on the issue of enforced disappearances. He further said the government and ordinary citizens did not take up arms, but it is the responsibility of the state to protect the people and the state must deal differently with the armed people.

Justice Kayani asked the acting PM if he had seen the record of the hearing. He added that this is the 26th hearing on the matter. He further said that they are only focusing on the case of Baloch students and the court has been informed that some of the students have become a part of the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan).

He added that according to their (petitioners’) information, some students have returned home, and some are being traced. Some individuals have returned home only because of this case.

The judge remarked that state institutions were not above the law and PM Kakar’s presence in the court has proved that the government is accountable under the law. He emphasised that enforced disappearances are a different issue, and state institutions know how to run the country, but peoples’ rights should not be violated in the name of running the country.

At that, Kakar maintained that the government was working within the framework of the Constitution, acknowledging that he was accountable according to the law. He said that the court had summoned them; therefore, they are before it. He continued, “I belong to Balochistan and we are facing an armed insurgency in Balochistan. Violations by non-state actors are also recorded.”

The PM mentioned the incident of a former chief justice of Balochistan who was martyred by armed groups during evening prayers while the CJ was leading an inquiry at that time.

Kakar emphasised that blaming the entire state for enforced disappearances is not justified and this series of allegations against the state should be stopped. He stated that people are killed on the roadside but no one dares to bring up the matter of their human rights. People are pulled off buses, and killed if their names turn out to be a Chaudhry or Gujjar.

He claimed that terrorism had claimed 90,000 lives in the country and non-state actors in Balochistan are after our lives and people are ethnically profiled in Balochistan and killed. He asked why nobody speaks out about the people who are being killed by these non-state actors.

The IHC bench said that undoubtedly, there is a war, and the military and institutions are fighting, and the court is not providing protection to any non-state actors.

The PM responded that his outgoing cabinet will ask the incoming parliament to fix legal, as well as, issues related to prosecution. He also pointed out that the petitioner advocates against profiling students based on ethnic grounds, there are flaws and deficiencies in the system. Without evidence who should we punish? Allegations are made against paramilitary forces and counter-terrorism agencies.

He said that the Baloch activists mention 5,000 names, which shows that they themselves do not want to resolve the issue and because of them, it is not right to consider the whole state as criminal.

Justice Kayani said that the credit for successful actions regarding the recovery of missing persons goes to the government. The petitioner’s counsel Imaan Mazari informed the court that it was wrong to say that those talking about missing persons were against the state. She said that we are also part of the same state, and do not support terrorism either.

The lawyer further emphasised that it is distressful for the families of the missing individuals that the matter is associated with terrorism every time it is brought up.

Kakar stated that the right to live is fundamental; being from Balochistan, I have more knowledge of the situation there.

Responding to Mazari’s comments, the AGP informed the court that the PM was requested to appear before the court, and he has. He maintained that he has addressed the court, and the matter is concluded here. The petitioner’s counsel cannot respond to the premier.

The judge made it clear that the petitioner was not asking for a response from the PM. He added, “Let’s first hear her stance.” Advocate Imaan Mazari said, “We also do not support acts of extremism. It has been recorded in reports that state institutions are involved in enforced disappearances.” Kakar contended that he disagreed with Mazari’s arguments. He said that this is not such a simple matter.

He mentioned that if tomorrow he joins the TTP and gets killed, his family will also cry. A decision is made by an individual and its consequences have to be borne by others. It is easy to start blaming the authorities in the name of missing persons’ relatives.

Justice Kayani stated that the court has formed a committee comprising heads of intelligence agencies on the matter of missing persons. The PM mentioned that the government has challenged this decision in the Supreme Court. He added that it is the executive’s prerogative and let them handle it.

Justice Kayani added that as heads of agencies, they have to submit a report, to which Kakar responded, “Alright, we will take action as per the law.”

He was then thanked by the IHC judge and permitted to leave.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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