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Eleven missing men in agency custody

ISLAMABAD: The mystery of 11 prisoners, who had been missing from Adiyala jail since their acquittal on terrorism charges in May this year, was finally solved on Thursday, with two premier spy agencies claiming that they had ‘recovered’ the men from terror camps and were now questioning them for masterminding terror campaigns after which they would be tried under the 1952 Army Act.

Eleven missing men in agency custody, SC told“These prisoners belong to a well-knit group of terrorists and were taken to their hideouts by persons disguised as spies in areas where the army is currently engaged in an operation against militants,” Advocate Raja Mohammad Irshad, the counsel for the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence, told a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court hearing a joint petition against the mysterious disappearance of the prisoners after their acquittal on terrorism charges by a trial court.

Everyone in the court was surprised by the statement because a few days earlier Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq submitted a brief statement on behalf of the agencies denying that they had the custody of the prisoners.

The statement also questioned the jurisdiction of the apex court to look into such matters, prompting the court to observe whether there was any law to govern the affairs of spy agencies and whether they considered themselves to be above the law.

The government had on Tuesday filed an application requesting the court to fix the case for Thursday as it wanted to share some important information with the court.

The petition was moved by Atiqur Rehman and others against the alleged kidnapping of Dr Niaz Ahmed, Mazharul Haq, Shafiqur Rehman, Mohammad Aamir, Abdul Majid, Abdul Basit, Abdul Saboor, Shafique Ahmed, Said Arab, Gul Roze and Tehseenullah from Rawalpindi’s Adiyala jail.

After the hearing on Thursday, relatives of the prisoners accused the counsel of misleading the court.

“Whatever the counsel informed the court is nothing but a pack of lies which is evident in the light of a report submitted by the Punjab chief secretary and admitted by the Punjab IG that the prisoners were mysteriously taken into custody by intelligence agencies from the jail at 11pm on May 29 this year,” Atiqur Rehman, one of the petitioners, told reporters.

The attorney general had rejected the chief secretary’s claim.

“If the statement of the counsel (Advocate Raja Irshad) is true the entire jail staff, Adiyala jail superintendent and the chief secretary should be hanged for being bought off by certain elements and telling lies before the court in writing,” said Mohammad Imtiaz Abbasi, a maternal uncle of Dr Niaz Ahmed, one of the prisoners.

Counsel Raja Irshad said that soon after the court had issued notices the intelligence agencies swung into action and launched an operation against the groups and arrested 20 to 25 terrorists, including the 11 prisoners.

“The prisoners are high-profile terrorists having links with terrorist outfits and mastermind of various terrorist attacks, including a rocket attack on the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, firing anti-aircraft shots at a plane carrying former President Pervez Musharraf, conducting suicide attacks on a bus of an intelligence agency in Rawalpindi and at the main entrance of the GHQ, bomb blasts at the Rawalpindi Parade Lane mosque and killing a number of senior army personnel,” he claimed.

The counsel rejected a perception that the army, ISI or any other intelligence agencies were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and said that these institutions completely submitted to the Constitution and to the authority of the court and always appreciated the role of the court in constitutional governance. “These agencies are also bound to follow the orders of this court,” he said.

“Certain elements while playing in the hands of the enemies of the country always defame the ISI as if the institution has no respect for the law and always consider themselves above the law,” the counsel said.

Citing examples from India, he said people there never criticised their intelligence agency RAW. “But, here (in Pakistan) every Tom, Dick and Harry just starts censuring the ISI for everything,” he said, adding that agency personnel deserved a word of appreciation for spending sleepless nights in the defence of the country. “They are being attacked day in and day out.”

The counsel requested the court to dispose of the petition because the prisoners were no longer missing. But the court decided to issue a suitable order when the counsel would submit a written statement on Friday.

The prisoners had been acquitted by trial courts in four terrorism cases, including charges under the Explosive Substance Act. The Lahore High Court had on May 26 upheld the trial court’s decision of exonerating them of the charges.

But District Coordination Officer Imdadullah Wassal issued a detention order to prevent their release. After the expiry of the order a similar decree was issued by Punjab’s Home Secretary Shahid Khan.

Both the orders were challenged before the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court by the petitioners. Subsequently, the high court ordered them to approach the judicial commission on missing people set up by the Supreme Court.

According to the petitioners, their relatives were abducted from the Adiyala jail and allegedly handed over to intelligence agencies when the high court had ordered their release. A case was also registered in this regard.

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