ISLAMABAD - Accepting the request of the attorney general, the Supreme Court on Tuesday granted another two days to the Defence Ministry to produce the 30 undeclared detainees.

Attorney General Munir A Malik, on behalf of the Defence Ministry, prayed to the court to give a ‘little time’, saying: “Definitely, progress will be made.” The chief justice warned the court would take action if the detainees were not produced on December 5.

The three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was hearing the human rights case for the recovery of one Yasin Shah and 34 other undeclared internees.

According to the Malakand Internment Centre superintendent, an army officer took 35 persons, including Yasin Shah, from his custody in February 2012. Acting Defence Secretary Maj-Gen (r) Arif Nazir confirmed to the court that out of 35 undeclared detainees, two had died and three had been released. He said one Habibullah s/o Hazrat Muhammad released in April 2012 had gone to Saudi Arabia, but he refused to disclose the identity of the other two, saying their names could not be revealed as it would jeopardise their lives. He, however, said: “They are working very much in Pakistan.”

The chief justice said: “If the court can direct the prime minister to implement its order, why not a direction can be issued to the chief of army staff.” Addressing Arif, the CJP said: “Don’t think we can’t pass an order for the recovery of the detainees, but we are showing restraint.”

The court on December 2 directed the Defence Ministry to produce 33 undeclared detainees today (Tuesday) otherwise the law would take its course.

The acting defence secretary told the court efforts were on to trace Yasin Shah and others. He sought time so that they could trace the rest of the detainees, adding locating them was tedious.

Addressing the secretary, the CJP said: “You know everything.” He said Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar had informed the court that they were in the custody of the internment centre. The chief justice told the secretary: “I am confident that you can produce them within one hour, but if you want to create a problem for yourself, then let the people of Pakistan see it. Save your own respect and also that of the Supreme Court.”

He further said: “If you say that you cannot produce the internees, the court will summon the persons who directly deal with the matter.” The secretary replied that it was his responsibility. “I have no name, but I have interacted with so many persons dealing with the matter.” The CJ asked him to give the names of those with whom he had interacted within one hour, and adjourned the hearing. When the hearing resumed, the attorney general assured the court that progress would definitely be made and sought a ‘little time’. The court, accepting his request, adjourned the hearing till December 5.

Earlier, the CJ said if the Defence Ministry wanted to keep identity of the two released persons secret, they should have produced them before the Supreme Court registrar.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also reached the court at 11:30am along with the acting secretary. Before entering the courtroom, he offered two ‘Nawafil’ in the SC mosque. The minister told the bench that change of individuals did not affect working of the institutions, but what had happened to the institutions in the last 15 years was in the knowledge of everyone. He praised the chief justice for the way he had led the struggle from the front.

He said like judiciary other institutions were also undergoing a change and the situation would be better soon. He also said his government wanted logical end to the missing persons case.

The chief justice, referring to a news item in an Urdu daily, said the missing persons had been shifted from Khyber Pakhtukhawa to some other location. The minister said it was incorrect and they would rebut the news.

The chief justice asked the secretary that if there were security issues in presenting the internees before the court, the bench would depute officials to visit the detainees in any secret location to maintain secrecy.

On a point that the chief justice would be retiring next week, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said institutions were supposed to work as institutions and after the retirement of Iftikhar Chaudhry, the Supreme Court would continue to perform its functions.