The Islamabad High Court has directed the federal government to issue notices to former President of Pakistan Parvez Musharraf and his successors, including Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and the incumbent premier Shehbaz Sharif over the issue of missing persons. The notices will be issued to the former chief executives of Pakistan for following an “undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances.” Justice Athar Minallah, the Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court, has said that if the missing persons are not recovered, current and the ex-interior ministers shall appear in the court.

According to the details, Justice Minallah issued a 15-page order on Sunday in a case related to the disappearance of journalist Mudassar Mahmood Naro and five others after their petitions were fixed for final arguments, but the federal government requested an adjournment.

In the order in the case, Justice Minallah said: “Retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and all other successor chief executives i.e. the former prime ministers, including the incumbent holder of the office shall submit their respective affidavits explaining why the court may not order proceedings against them for alleged subversion of the Constitution in the context of undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances and thus putting national security at risk by allowing the involvement of law enforcement agencies, particularly the armed forces.”

“Pervez Musharraf has candidly conceded in his autobiography In the Line of Fire that ‘enforced disappearances’ was an undeclared policy of the state,” he said. “The onus is on each chief executive to rebut the presumption and to explain why they may not be tried for the offence of high treason.”

Justice Minallah went on to say: “… the involvement or even a perception of the involvement of the armed forces in acts amounting to violation of human rights and freedom of the citizens weakens and undermines the rule of law”.

The IHC chief justice said that if the missing persons were not recovered and demonstrable actions were not taken by the federal government, the current and all the former interior ministers shall appear in the court to explain why petitions must not be decided and exemplary costs imposed upon them for the pain and agony suffered by the petitioners on account of lack of response and empathy while dealing with their grievances.

“The learned attorney general shall satisfy the court that in case of alleged disappearances in future why criminal cases may not be ordered to be registered against the chief executives of the federation and the concerned provinces,” the order said.

The court also lamented the role of the media in failing to highlight the issue of missing persons and the ordeal and agony of the missing persons. It appears that the print and electronic media either prefer to ignore the worst form of abuse of power by the state and violating of fundamental rights if they do not consider it a priority, the court said.

The court was also dissatisfied with the role of the parliament of Pakistan over the matter, saying: “Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) and the legislatures of the respective provinces are the most important and crucial organs of the state but nothing has been placed on record to indicate that they may have adopted a proactive role to fulfil their Constitutional obligations.”

“The federal government shall produce the missing persons before the court on the date fixed (June 17) or justify the failure of the state to effectively investigate and trace their whereabouts”, the court ordered the government.

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