Extra-judicial role of intelligence agencies

Daily Times, June 22, 2006
Extra-judicial role of intelligence agencies protested
* Najam Sethi says HRCP recorded at least 100 ‘disappearances’ last year
Staff Report

LAHORE: Participants of a debate on Wednesday strongly protested the “extra-judicial role” of intelligence agencies.

The debate – The Role of Police and Judiciary in Society – was arranged at the launch of a book by historian Dr Mubarik Ali at the Lahore Press Club on Wednesday afternoon. Participants also called for an independent judiciary in the country, a vibrant political system and urged civil society to stand up against dictatorship.

Dr Mubarak Ali’s book – Main aur mera muqadamma: The story of a decaying society – focuses on a false case against the author. The book criticises the method of investigation of the police and the role of the judiciary, and focuses on the author’s struggle against this system.

Daily Times Editor Najam Sethi presided over the function, while human rights activist Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan and former Lahore High Court Bar Association president Ahmad Awais were chief guests on the occasion. Sethi spoke about the operation of the judiciary, police, media, intelligence agencies and the establishment “working under the guise of national security”. He said that civil society must stand up against the extra-judicial role of the intelligence agencies. He recalled his own victimisation during the tenure of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, when he was kidnapped by secret agencies and the judiciary had been unable to resolve the issue. “My case, regarding who captured me and under which law the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) functions, is still in the Supreme Court,” he said. “In fact, the then chief justice of the superior courts advised us to withdraw the case. The case remains a question mark six years later.”

Sethi said that rising incidents of ‘disappearances’ of citizens of the country had made “a mockery of the judiciary”. He condemned the recent killing of tribal areas journalist Hayatullah Khan, who disappeared about six months ago and was found dead in Mir Ali on June 16.

He said that the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had counted the disappearance of about 100 people in parts of Sindh and Balochistan in the last year, which was “quite worrying”. He urged the media to highlight such issues “to stop this anarchy”.

“The people and media must protest against this extra judicial role of the agencies,” he said. “We must not forget such incidents, or else we will be next.” He said that the civil society and media should think about the extent of suffering that the common man went through, “if a person as renowned as Dr Mubarak Ali can be so wronged”.

Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan said that Dr Ali had been persecuted because “he writes about the people’s history”. She urged political parties to make the demand for an independent judiciary part of their manifestoes.

Ahmad Awais condemned the “extra-constitutional role of the army” in the country. “According to the constitution, the army is bound to stay out of politics,” he said. He called for efforts to establish the “rule of law instead of the rule of authority”.

Aslam Gordaspuri, Azar Latif, Naseerurddin Butt and Toseefur Rehman also addressed the gathering.

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