Enforced disappearances: SC seeks report on trial of military officials

Pakistan on 16 April 2014
Location : Islamabad, Pakistan | Source : The Express Tribune; image source: The Express Tribune

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the defence ministry to submit a report on the steps taken by military authorities for the trial of army officials involved in the Baloch ‘missing’ persons’ cases.

During the hearing of the Balochistan target killing case on Tuesday, the two-judge bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk asked the deputy attorney general of Pakistan whether the army has started any proceedings against the officials allegedly involved in enforced disappearances.

DAG Sajid Bhatti submitted that they have not received any kind of information from the defence ministry in this regard. The Express Tribune has learnt that the Balochistan government has agreed to refer 14 ‘missing’ persons’ cases to the army for the trial of Frontier Corps and intelligence agency officials under the Army Act.

Advocate General of Balochistan Nazimuddin Baloch submitted a report on behalf of the chief secretary of the province regarding the ‘missing’ persons’ issue. The detailed report suggests that, as regards the prosecution of army officers, the provincial government suggests that the officers be tried under Pakistan Army Act.

The report also suggests, “Since allegations are against federal agencies, therefore, the provincial government is of the view that the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence may be required to explain their position in respect of all the cases where the allegations are against Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies respectively and also evolve a mechanism to sort out the issue of ‘missing’ persons and affect their recovery.”

According to the report, in compliance with the SC’s March 6 and March 26 orders, the province’s chief secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad on April 2 held a meeting with the FC’s counsel Irfan Qadir in Islamabad.

“After discussion, it was resolved that henceforth, the government of Balochistan and Frontier Corps will remain in close contact to effectively monitor the issue of missing persons presently pending before this court, so as to find a way forward with a hope to eventually resolve the matter and find the whereabouts of the ‘missing’ persons. The Frontier Corps assures that they will not protect any delinquent officials in the case.”

It also says that the provincial government had already taken up the issue at the highest level with the prime minister of Pakistan, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Interior, Director General Military Intelligence (MI), Director General ISI, and Inspector General of Frontier Corps Balochistan, but that all intelligence agencies along with the FC Balochistan have denied custody.

The report stated that the provincial government and its chief minister require the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense and their subordinate agencies to make recovery possible.

Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) Chairman Nasrullah Baloch told the court that the ‘missing’ person issue is related to civilians, therefore, the trial of army officials should be held in civilian courts.

While rejecting his plea, the court noted that the trial of serving army officials is held under the Army Act 1952 but that aggrieved parties have the right of appeal against military court rulings in the Supreme Court.

Mass grave in Khuzdar

Meanwhile, the bench also sought an explanation from the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) about why it is consuming four to five months for matching the DNA samples of 11 bodies exhumed from the mass grave which had the samples from 44 bodies.

The hearing of the case is adjourned until May 6.

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