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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Missing persons case: In a first,Pak govt lodges FIR against army officials

Missing persons case: In a first, Pak govt lodges FIR against army officials

The court also sought a copy of the challan after the investigation, saying it would examine whether action taken against the accused is in accordance with the December 2013 ruling. DESIGN: SIDRAH MOIZ KHAN
For the first time in Pakistan’s history, a defence minister on Friday lodged an FIR against some army officials in a case involving illegal removal of 35 undeclared inmates from an internment centre in Malakand who have been listed as ‘missing’ since then.
The case was registered by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police under Section 346 of the Pakistan Penal Code against Naib Subedar Amanullah Baig and others, and the provincial advocate general, Latif Yousufzai, submitted a copy of the FIR before a three-judge bench of theSupreme Court.
On the complaint of Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the K-P government registered a criminal case under Section 346 against the army officials allegedly involved in the illegal removal of 35 undeclared inmates from an internment centre in Malakand.
Section 346 relates to the wrongful, secret confinement of a person. “Whoever wrongfully confines any person in such manner as to indicate an intention that the confinement of such person may not be known to any person interested in the person so confined, or to any public servant, or that the place of such confinement may not be known to or discovered by any such person of public servant as hereinbefore mentioned, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years in addition to any other punishment to which he may be liable for such wrongful confinement,” the section states.
A senior law officer told The Express Tribune that Section 346 deals with minor offences that are bailable. “The accused has the right to get bail and the court has no power to refuse it. Likewise, the judge is bound to grant bail from the very first day,” he added. He said that since the 35 missing persons have yet to be found, the police could have applied Section 365 of the PPC, which deals with non-bailable offences.
On Wednesday, the SHO of Secretariat police station, Abdul Rehman, while responding to a complaint by Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, referred its report on the lodging of an FIR to the Malakand police under Section 253 of the Police Rules 1934.
“We are confident that if the matter is probed in accordance with the law by the federal and provincial governments, the names of other army officials who were involved in the removal of 35 persons from the internment centre will surface,” the Supreme Court said in its December 10, 2013 judgment.
Defence ministry counsel Raja Irshad said this is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a defence minister has lodged a criminal case against military officials. He added that the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) could not give the federal government proper legal advice as the government has lodged the case under pressure.
During Friday’s proceedings, the bench expressed satisfaction at the registration of a criminal case and directed the federal and provincial governments to ensure an investigation against the army officials in a transparent manner. The bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, said that if the investigation reveals that other sections of the PPC can be applied, then the FIR should be updated.
The court also sought a copy of the challan after the investigation, saying it would examine whether action taken against the accused is in accordance with the December 2013 ruling.
AGP Salman Aslam Butt told the court that a one-man commission, headed by Justice (retired) Ajman Mian, has commenced a search for the missing persons. The court directed that the commission’s report be submitted within a month.
The AGP, while referring to paragraph 18 of the December 2013 judgment, said that the federal government has promulgated the Protection of Pakistan (Amended) Ordinance 2014 on enforced disappearances.  He stated that the government would put forward further legislation if required.
The case has been adjourned for three weeks.