Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday expressed his resolve for missing persons to be reunited with their families at a hearing on the matter in the Islamabad High Court.
“Missing persons reunite with their families, I assure you,” PM Shehbaz said.
The prime minister appeared in court to apprise it of the government’s steps to address the missing persons issue.
Ahead of the hearing, other cases were removed from the cause list. The court notice stated that only the missing persons case will be heard.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah said to PM Shehbaz as he took the rostrum: “We have troubled you because this is a major issue. This issue has been pending in this court for several months.”
Justice Minallah regretted that the state’s response has not been commensurate with its responsibility.
The chief justice, in apparent reference to retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, said: “A chief executive ruled the country for nine years. He proudly wrote in his book that he sold his people off abroad. This makes it seem that perhaps this was the policy of the state.”
“If we speak of the Constitution, there cannot be a state within a state,” he continued.
He said that the court is a constitutional forum and not an investigation agency.
Justice Minallah noted that the matter was sent to the federal cabinet and that a committee had been formed but “this matter is not only about the formation of a committee”.
“This court felt it appropriate to tell you what the actual issue is,” he said to PM Shehbaz.
The chief justice said that the commission on missing persons that was formed, held proceedings, and “what came forth was very painful”.
“It is the state’s responsibility to ensure redressal of their suffering,” he stressed.
Justice Minallah said that people have been recovered from detention centres “but no action was taken”.
“This impression affects our national security,” he said, adding: “The political leadership has to solve this problem.”
“Disappearing people is the highest form of torture,” Justice Minallah said.
The chief justice said that the court had no other option but to approach the executive. “But when the state tells us they are unaware who has disappeared these people, what are we to do then?”
More to follow.