Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assured the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday of making all-out efforts for the recovery of missing persons, saying that he will not give any “lame excuse”.

“I cannot say that all of the missing persons will be recovered, but we will leave no stone unturned,” he said. “I will not give any lame excuse.”

The premier made these remarks before IHC Chief Justice (CJ) Athar Minallah during the hearing of identical petitions seeking the recovery of six missing persons, including journalist Mudassar Naaru.

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At the last hearing, Justice Minallah had directed PM Shehbaz to ensure that the missing persons — whose cases were being heard in the IHC — were produced before the court on September 9 (today) and warned that the failure to do so would require the premier to appear in person on the said date and give an explanation.

When PM Shehbaz appeared before the court today, Justice Minallah said he had been summoned as the issue at hand was a big one.

He recalled that the court had referred the matter of missing persons to the federal cabinet multiple times but the cabinet’s response “had not been what it should be”.

Making an apparent reference to former president Pervez Musharraf, he continued, “A chief executive ruled in this country for nine years. He proudly wrote in his book that we sold our people to foreign countries.”

“This court is not an investigation agency,” he further remarked.

The IHC CJ then noted that the government had also constituted a committee — a body that was set up in May on the IHC’s directives to deliberate a policy on enforced disappearances.

But the matter was not limited to a committee, he continued. “A commission was also formed for missing persons.

“The families of missing persons are sitting here. They revealed a lot of things about the commission.”

Moreover, he said the court had also been told about the reservations of Baloch students.

‘Political leadership has to solve this issue’

Justice Minallah stressed that the state’s responsibility should be fulfilled,“ regretting that in cases where missing persons were recovered, no further action was taken.

“The political leadership has to solve this issue,” he said. “The court has no other way but to only ask the executive [about the issue].”

The IHC CJ further emphasised that there should not be an impression that law enforcement agencies were picking up citizens.

“This impression affects our national security,” he added. Addressing PM Shehbaz, he continued, “You are the prime minister and the national security of this country is in your hands. This court trusts you. Give [us] a solution for this [issue].”

He questioned who the court should hold responsible for enforced disappearances.

For his part, PM Shehbaz said solving the issue was his duty.

At that, Justice Minallah observed that there were several issues of governance that could only be resolved once the “Constitution is restored”.

He observed that most law enforcement agencies came under the interior ministry.

‘Making people go missing biggest form of torture’

Justice Minallah then termed the practice of “making people go missing the biggest form of torture” and a “deviation from the Constitution”.

“This court is a constitutional court … This court will look at the Constitution. There is no bigger issue than this,” he further remarked.

He asked PM Shehbaz what the court should tell a small child approaching it for justice. “He also met the erstwhile prime minister,” Justice Minallah said, apparently making a reference to Naru’s son meeting former prime minister Imran Khan in December last year.

PM Shehbaz told the court that a child of a missing person asked him to reunite him with his father. “This sentence is very disturbing for me,” he said.

Saying that he was answerable to the courts and the people of the country, he added, “I am not here to play blame games.”

“I will not give any lame excuses,” he added.

The premier informed the court that the government had constituted a cabinet committee on enforced disappearances and so far, its six meetings had been held.

He expressed the resolve to present “undeniable evidence” to the court and commented that “facts speak for themselves”.

The PM assured the court that he would monitor every meeting of the committee on missing persons and submit a report.

“That report will not be based on tales but facts.”

More to follow

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