April 21, 2007

Pakistan : Petition filed in SC for reining in Intelligence agencies

Petition filed in SC for reining in Intelligence agencies
[2007-04-20 4:46:07 PM GMT]

ISLAMABAD: Appearing in the case of missing persons former Senator Farhatullah Babar on Friday urged the Supreme Court to ask the government to produce copy of the law under which the intelligence agencies operated so that the issue of disappeared could be examined in its correct perspective.

He deposed that it was necessary because the Parliament had already been denied even copy of the law let alone its right to make and improve upon the legislation governing the intelligence agencies.

He said that in October 2003 he formally asked a question in the Senate about the legislation that governed the functioning of the state’s premier intelligence agency the ISI. He then read out the letter of Senate secretariat of November 3, 2003, which rejected his plea on the ground that “the subject matter of this question is of secret and sensitive nature and it asks for information on a matter prejudicial to the integrity and security of the country”.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that either the agencies were operating beyond the ambit of law or if there was any law it should have been produced before the Parliament and urged the Court to direct the government to produce the relevant law regulating the functioning of the agencies.

If secret and sensitive issues were involved these could be discussed in camera but it could not be said that the law itself was secret and could not be disclosed even to the Members of Parliament who as legislators are supposed to make laws, he averred.

He said that as member of Parliament he had also tried various parliamentary instruments to find out the legislative basis and discuss the conduct of intelligence agencies but was not allowed.

He deposed that the assertion that the agencies operated beyond the realm of law was also reinforced in July last year when the defence ministry took the position before the Sindh High Court that the intelligence agencies were under their administrative control but their operations were not under its control.

Farhatullah Babar had submitted his petition pleading to be a party to the case of missing persons on behalf of the Peoples Democracy Institute, an affiliate of the Shaheed Bhutto Foundation.

The grounds of petition said that even after the suo moto notice taken by the Honorable Supreme Court citizens continue to disappear mysteriously with no trace whatsoever. Some of the most recent kidnappings include one Mr. Afzal Dilbar a 17-year old matric student and President of the Baloch Students Organization in Pasni along with three friends named Gul Muhammad, Shabbir and Muhammad. Reportedly they were picked up by the SHO Trump Police Station on February 15, 2007 in Tehsil Tump, District Kech, Balochistan who then handed them over to the Frontier Constabulary. It has also been reported that the family members of disappeared victims approached the Tump police station but no FIR was registered.

Another case of mysteriously disappeared person after the SC took suo moto notice was that of Noor Jan from the same district. He too was picked up by members of law enforcing agencies in plain clothes from Ghulam Nabi Petrol Pump, Salala Bazaar Tehsil Turbat, District Kech in Balochistan on February 9, 2007. Since then Jan’s whereabouts remain unknown.

The petition said that there are reasonable suspicions that citizens and non-citizens may have actually been kidnapped by the security agencies ostensibly for fighting the war on terror but allegedly for collecting bounty.

The petition maintains that a case about ISI using public funds to engineer political landscape has been pending before the Supreme Court since 1997 and prayed that it be taken up.

The petition prays for directions for the setting up of “institutional framework for the control and guidance of intelligence agencies so as to stop them from setting their own agendas and themselves defining parameters of their activities and areas of operations”.

It further prayed for directions to make a law “to guide and control the working of the intelligence agencies and subject them to scrutiny by relevant Parliamentary committees”.

It also prays for the “setting up of a Commission comprising of members of Parliament, Judges and human rights activists to look into the issues of disappeared person, effect recovery of the missing, investigate whether some people had been kidnapped allegedly for bounty collection and to identify individuals involved in such disappearances”

The petitioner urged the apex court to bring to justice those involved in mysterious disappearances and torturing city.

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