Interior Minister Rehman Malik assured the Supreme Court on Monday that the government had no plan to establish military courts by amending the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, although there was a proposal to extend the period of detention of a suspected militant to 90 days. �The democratic government will never establish military courts to try suspected terrorists,� Mr Malik told a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, hearing a plethora of cases relating to missing persons. Mr Malik had appeared in the court along with provincial home secretaries and inspectors general of police in line with an order issued earlier by the court. He said that amendments proposed to the Act had not yet been approved even by parliament because it was sceptical about the misuse of powers vested in law-enforcement agencies. The court during the last hearing had asked the interior minister and home secretaries and inspectors general of the provinces to appear before it and allay concerns over the slow pace of recovery of missing persons and the rising trend of forced disappearances. The clarification about military courts came when Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jehangir said she was disturbed by reports that three former judges of a commission on missing persons had suggested to the government to set up military courts. About allegations that the Frontier Constabulary was lifting Baloch people and recovery of bullet-riddled bodies in Balochistan, Mr Malik informed the court that perpetrators had changed their strategy by targeting their own people only to inflame the emotions of local people and create international hype. Because of the government`s efforts the perpetrators had fled to Sindh and attacked Pakistan Navy`s buses in Karachi, he said. Recently, he added, the law-enforcement agencies personnel had arrested some culprits who were planning to assassinate the president in Larkana. �Balochistan is a victim of international conspiracy,� Mr Malik said, adding that the government had engaged nationalist leaders and the next cabinet meeting would be held in Quetta. �We are in constant contact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to check the movement of perpetrators and destroy camps where Baloch youths are being given training on terrorism.� He requested the court to give confidence to intelligence and security agencies who were doing the difficult task of defending the country from a well thought-out global conspiracy to destabilise Pakistan. He said that there might be excesses but these were individual acts, adding that intelligence agencies were bound to move whenever an anti-state activity was reported. Mr Malik denied the claim that 6,000 people were missing and said the figure had been exaggerated only to draw international attention. In fact, he said, the figure of leftover cases was only 55. He cited a case of 17 people who had reportedly disappeared, but Nadra record showed that they had machine readable passports and were frequenting to Saudi Arabia or other countries. Similarly, out of 42 cases traced in Punjab, three were proclaimed offenders, four belonged to jihadi organisations and seven were terrorists and criminals. The interior minister also cited the case of journalist Rashid Turrabi whose son was claimed to have been picked up by the Inter-Services Intelligence, but who was later found in Miramshah and had connection with militants. �Most of the people claimed to be missing were either spies, agents, double agents and have connections with jihadi organisations or forced to wage jihad,� Mr Malik claimed. He deplored that because of lacunae in laws a number of suspected militants arrested by law-enforcement agencies won freedom from courts. He offered to give an in-camera briefing to the court on the terrorism situation. Justice Javed Iqbal observed that nobody was above the law and that the ISI was answerable to the Supreme Court as well as the interior ministry. �If the laws are insufficient, cognisance can be taken by parliament. Time has come when action should be taken against those agencies against which incriminating evidence is available for picking up individuals,� he said, adding that if there was some black sheep in the agencies they should be punished. Justice Iqbal deplored that Baloch leaders who were real stakeholders were not being taken into confidence by the federal government before launching any programme and stressed the need for bringing the nationalist leaders to the mainstream. He said that performance of agencies would be appreciated only if the number of missing persons decreased and the tendency of bullet-riddled bodies was arrested.
By: Dawn News