LAHORE: Court says defence minister should appear if secretary fails to produce 35 missing persons on 28th. A full bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the defence secretary to produce until Thursday (tomorrow) the 35 people who are now in custody but were earlier called as missing persons.
Hearing the case of missing person Yasin Shah, the bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Amir Hani Muslim ordered the minister of defence (a portfolio currently held by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) to appear in the court if the defence secretary failed to produce the missing persons. The court had earlier summoned the defence secretary but he did not appear. On Tuesday, Additional Defence Secretary Major Gen (r) Raja Arif Nazir, Senior Joint Secretary Anzar Rizvi, Director Legal Muhammad Irfan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Inspector General of Prisons Zakir Husain Afridi and Malakand Internment Centre Superintendent Ataullah appeared in the court in the case.
Arif Nazir told the court that the defence secretary was on medical leave, and requested more time to produce the missing persons. On query, he told the court that nobody has been given the acting charge in the absence of the defence secretary. While observing that no document has been produced about the medical leave of the defence secretary the court directed the additional secretary to produce the leave sanction order. Meanwhile, the superintendent of the internment centre produced a list of 35 undeclared internees, one of whom was Yasin Shah, who had been taken by the army.
Additional attorney general told the court that at present the portfolio of defence minister was with the prime minister. The bench postponed the hearing until 1pm and directed the law officer to take up the matter with the ministry and ensure production of the internees from the custody of the army. It observed that since sufficient evidence was available to establish the custody of the 35 persons with the army, therefore, the army authorities were bound to produce them before the court, and had no authority to retain their custody unlawfully. The court held that these persons are not missing as their custody has been identified.
It observed that they could be prosecuted if found guilty. Later, when the proceedings resumed, additional defence secretary told the court that the acting charge of the secretary has been entrusted to him and he again requested some more time to produce these persons. The court turned down his request and directed the defence minister and defence secretary to produce these persons on Thursday, November 28.