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IHC Summons Law Minister, Intelligence Officials In Poet’s Abduction Case

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the live broadcast of all missing persons cases while hearing the case of missing poet Ahmed Farhad Shah on Friday. The court summoned high-ranking officials to appear on May 29.

Ahmed Farhad Shah, a journalist and poet, disappeared from his Islamabad home on May 14.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani issued an eight-page written order in Urdu, summoning the Federal Minister for Law, the ISI Sector Commander, the Military Intelligence Director, the Intelligence Bureau Director, and the secretaries of defense and interior.

The court directed that if Shah is found before the next hearing, a written report must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office. This is the first time the IHC has issued a written order in Urdu, authored by Justice Kayani.

During the hearing, journalists informed the court about a PEMRA notification. The court allowed the reporting of proceedings, emphasizing the case’s importance.

On Tuesday, the IHC had ordered Shah’s recovery by May 24, accepting the Attorney General for Pakistan’s (AGP) request for additional time.

At the hearing’s start, the AGP requested an extension of two to four days for Shah’s recovery, assuring the court that law enforcement would locate him within this period.

Justice Kayani questioned whether the AGP had consulted with the federal government, to which the AGP affirmed the government’s full backing.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Imaan Mazari, expressed frustration over recurring instances of forced disappearances, emphasizing she represented such matters daily. She pressed the AGP on the progress made in Shah’s case, suggesting that if the agencies were not involved, the kidnappers should at least be traceable.

Justice Kayani stressed the need to end the culture of non-appearance in court, noting that even a prime minister can appear before the court.

The AGP assured the court that all resources would be used to locate the missing poet.

Senior puisne judge Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani ordered the live streaming of all missing persons cases to enhance public awareness and understanding of significant legal issues.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called for Shah’s immediate release, who was allegedly abducted from his home on May 15. Shah’s wife filed a petition in the IHC the same day for his recovery and to identify those responsible for his disappearance.

On May 16, Justice Kayani had summoned a report from the defense secretary on the alleged role of intelligence agencies in Shah’s disappearance. Earlier this week, expressing dissatisfaction with the defense secretary’s work, Justice Kayani called on intelligence agencies to shed their reputation for abductions.

Upon seeking an explanation from the defense secretary by 3 PM the same day, the court was informed that Shah was not in ISI custody. Justice Kayani then summoned the defense and interior secretaries in person the next day.

On Tuesday, AGP Mansoor Usman Awan submitted a report stating that the defense secretary was ill. The judge again summoned the secretary for the next hearing and ordered the AGP to recover Shah within four days, which the AGP took full responsibility for.

During the hearing, AGP Awan and Islamabad Inspector General (IG) Ali Nasir Rizvi appeared in court. The court order, written in Urdu, questioned the AGP about the law enforcement institutions’ performance, including ISI and MI, and emphasized the need for all institutions to work within their constitutional limits.

The defense secretary was summoned in his personal capacity to explain the roles of intelligence agencies and their accountability within the court’s jurisdiction.

The order highlighted the issue of missing persons as a critical public interest matter, noting the lack of legislation to hold law enforcement agencies accountable. It stated that significant benefits had not been realized from the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances.

The judge subsequently appointed the PFUJ secretary and senior journalist Hamid Mir as judicial assistants and asked AGP Awan and the petitioner’s counsel to nominate experts on the matter.

The order also addressed PEMRA’s gag order on television reporting of court proceedings, allowing the reporting of this case due to its importance. It directed the court registrar to produce an administrative note on the matter.

Justice Kayani posed several questions and instructions for the respondents to devise a permanent solution for missing persons cases, including the roles and accountability of intelligence agencies.

During the hearing, AGP Awan informed the court about call detail records (CDRs) being used to trace Shah. Justice Kayani questioned the state’s ability to recover Shah, emphasizing that recovery was a state compulsion.

The judge ordered the defense secretary to appear at the next hearing to explain the ISI’s operations and accountability mechanisms. He emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability in all institutions and announced plans to form a mechanism for handling missing persons cases nationwide.

The judge ordered the live-streaming of the next hearing and the reporting of all missing persons cases. He stressed the need for a structured accountability system for intelligence agencies and reiterated the state’s responsibility to recover missing persons.

Hassan Naqvi
Hassan Naqvi
Hassan Naqvi is an award-winning digital, print, and broadcast investigative journalist who is the co-founder of The Scoop. He also hosts his web shows 'The Scoop' and 'The Hassan Naqvi Show'.

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