Missing persons cases to be tried in civil courts

 30 January 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government took a landmark decision on Tuesday under which those involved in kidnapping citizens will be tried under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The decision was made by Prime Minister Imran Khan in a meeting on human rights at the PM Office (PMO).

A press release issued by the PMO said the government had decided to amend the PPC in order to criminalise any attempt by an individual or organisation to make someone disappear by force.

“After the decision, those involved in abducting citizens will be tried in civil courts,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told media after the meeting.

Meeting chaired by prime minister decides that enforced disappearance to be criminalised through amendments to Pakistan Penal Code

The issue of missing persons and enforced disappearance had been a challenging task for previous governments as the list of missing persons continued to swell.

People living in conflict-ridden tribal areas, Balochistan and Karachi have been complaining about enforced disappearances.

The Pakistan Peoples Party has taken a firm stand on the issue and raised it time and again. It is believed that missing persons have been picked by intelligence agencies and, thus, they have not been allowed to defend themselves in a court of law.

On July 12 last year the Islamabad High Court (IHC) defined the concept of enforced disappearance and declared that individuals involved in abducting and detaining citizens at unknown locations might be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The 47-page judgement, authored by Justice Athar Minallah (now chief justice of the IHC) in the case of a missing IT expert who was kidnapped from his home in F-10, Islamabad, introduced strict consequences for officials involved in enforced disappearances.

The IHC also ruled that certain government functionaries were responsible for the criminal justice system’s failure to recover Mr Mehmood and fined them. It expressed displeasure with intelligence agencies – the Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau – and directed the federal government to bear monthly expenses of the missing individual’s family.

According to the Missing Persons Commission, it has disposed of 3,492 out of 5,608 cases up to Nov 30. The commission received 5,507 cases up to Oct 31 and 111 more up to November last year.

Bonded labour

The prime minister also directed authorities concerned to eliminate bonded labour in the country and said steps must be taken to educate children of poor families.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi, and the PM’s Adviser on Commerce Razzak Dawood.

The prime minister directed the authorities to remove discriminatory signboards from clubs (Islamabad Club, Gymkhana etc) and other public places restricting the entry of maids, Aayas and domestic servants.

“Bureau of Statistics should conduct a countrywide survey on child labour and subsequently formulate a comprehensive strategy to extricate such children from poverty and take measures for their education,” the prime minister said.

He was also briefed on progress made towards end to torture, restricting death penalty, combating domestic violence and other human rights-related issues. On this the prime minister said: “Ensuring and safeguarding human rights is a major plank of our religion and enshrined in our constitution.”

He said the government was committed to protecting human rights and promote rights of minorities and marginalised sections of society.

The prime minister chaired a separate meeting of the Task Force on Technology-Driven Knowledge Economy. It was attended by Finance Minister Asad Umer, Planning Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, IT Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Commerce Adviser Razzak Dawood, Professor Dr Attaur Rehman, Dr Tariq Binori, representatives of business community and industrialists and federal secretaries of ministries concerned.

The prime minister was briefed on ways and means to promote technology-driven economy with enhanced allocations to higher education, technical skill development of human resource and promotion of digitalisation and artificial intelligence education and skills.

Prime Minister Khan said the government was focusing on the shift towards technology to transform economy and make the best use of the nation’s human resource.

Dr Rehman made a presentation on transformation to a technology-driven economy.

Meanwhile, Senior Research Manager, IBM, Kenya, Dr Charity Wayua called on the prime minister on Tuesday. They exchanged views on improving ease of doing business while Dr Wayua shared Kenya’s experience in improving ease of doing business.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2019