The case of the missing persons in Pakistan has become a sensitive one, which needs to be resolved at an early date. The angst of the relatives of the missing persons is evident from their agitation in the federal and provincial capitals. The Supreme Court has taken cognisance of their mental anguish and sought redress. The apex court has observed that Article 9 of the Constitution is being violated in the ‘missing persons’ cases and the law enforcement agencies, including the ISI, have been named. Unfortunately, there is more to it than meets the eye and these cases have more twists and turns than a John le Carré spy novel.  

Pakistan has been involved in the war against terror since October 2001, when the US-led alliance struck Afghanistan in retaliation to the 9/11 attacks. What the world has remained oblivious to is the fact that Pakistan has suffered the most, along with the people of Afghanistan, in being subjected to terror attacks. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal and Institute for Conflict Management’s findings up to January 29, 2012, Pakistan has lost 39,209 lives due to terror attacks out of which the toll for security forces losing their lives is over 5,000. The harbingers of death, doom and gloom in the shape of terror mongers have struck Pakistan by attacking its security installations, schools, colleges, shopping centres, hospitals, mosques and religious congregations. Even highly secure places, like the GHQ, PN Base Mehran and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra, have been targeted.

A sizable number of civilians and military personnel had been killed, as a result of the attacks. The security forces managed to detain suspects involved in these brazen and heinous attacks. Eleven suspects were apprehended and after their involvement in these atrocious acts was established, they were produced before the court of law. The security agencies also managed to recover a large cache of weapons, mines and other destructive material from their possession and handed over the same to the police, as evidence for prosecution. Unfortunately, justice is blind and the suspects got acquitted from the anti- terrorism courts, despite sufficient evidence. However, they continued to be detained under Section 16 of the MPO. On May 28, 2010, the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court declared their detention illegal and ordered their release. There are reports that as soon as they left the jail premises, the collaborators of the terrorists disguised as intelligence agencies got hold of them and transported them to their safe havens in FATA. Fooled by the ploy, the families of the accused submitted a writ petition to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, declaring them to be “missing persons” and blaming the intelligence agencies for their abduction.   

Under direction of the Supreme Court, intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies worked relentlessly to trace the suspects and apprehended 20 suspects, including the former 11 and on December 9, 2010, the Supreme Court was apprised of their detention. The court ordered for their Field General court martial proceedings and arrangement for them to meet their families. It has been established that during the period of their remaining underground and, at times, under pathetic hygienic conditions, the suspects contracted diseases and their health continued to deteriorate. Suitable treatment was provided to them at the CMH and Lady Reading Hospital at Peshawar, but, despite best treatment efforts, four of the accused succumbed to their illness on varying dates. Their mortal remains were handed over to their dependants, in accordance with Islamic rituals, and requested for permission for autopsy, but their families declined. According to the death certificates issued by the respective hospitals, the death of all these accused occurred due to natural causes and not torture or duress, as being alleged.

In view of the linkages of suspects with terrorist groups in FATA, the detainees were interned under Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation 2011 for FATA/PATA, but the media campaign by vested interests against the intelligence agencies continues unabated. Whereas, there should be compassion for genuine missing persons, the media should also respect the survivors of the innocent civilians and security forces brutally slaughtered by the terrorists.

The writer is a political and defence analyst.