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IHC designates poet Ahmed Farhad as ‘missing person’ until his safe return home

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ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court’s (IHC’s) Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani has ordered that Kashmiri poet Ahmed Farhad be declared an “enforced disappearance/missing person” till he reaches his home safely, it emerged on Monday.

A written order of Friday’s hearing stated: “Syed Farhad Ali Shah is declared an enforced disappearance/missing person until he reaches his home safely.”

Farhad had been allegedly abducted from his home on May 15, with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan calling for his immediate release.

A petition had been filed by Farhad’s wife in the IHC the same day, requesting that he be found and produced before the court and to identify, investigate and prosecute those responsible for his disappearance.

Justice Kayani had also fra­med 12 questions, mostly related to the functions and obligations of spy agencies — the Inter-Serv­ices Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelli­gence (MI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

After multiple IHC orders, Farhad resurfaced on May 29, when the government informed the court that the poet was in the custody of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) police under the case registered the same day of obstructing public servant’s duties.

On June 1, Farhad was brought to a health facility in Muzaffarabad for his medical check-up hours after his counsel had requested the same before an anti-terrorism court (ATC).

Last week, an AJK ATC rejected the poet’s bail plea, holding that the legal points advanced by his counsel did not apply to the case in hand.

On June 7, the IHC had disposed of the petition seeking Farhad’s recovery, with the remarks that apparently it was causing hardship to the incarcerated poet.

In the written order issued today for the same hearing, Justice Kayani observed that when Farhad would reach his home, the investigation officer of Islamabad’s Lohi Bher police station was bound to record his statement “under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) before a judicial magistrate and proceed with the investigation as a result”.

On the matter of combining all such cases of enforced disappearance sub judice before the IHC and forming a larger bench to hear them, Justice Kayani ordered that the cases be presented before IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq “so he, using his administrative powers, may form a larger bench so that this matter of public interest can be dealt with in a better way”.

Further, the judge directed the IHC registrar to invite the director generals of the ISI, MI and the IB as well as the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) incharge at the next meeting of the Criminal Justice Committee so they could present their requests and recommendations.

The meeting’s aim would also be for all institutions — including the Islamabad police, inspector general and chief commissioner as well as the interior and law ministries — to protect citizens’ rights and deal with a “heinous crime such as enforced disappearance while remaining within the legal jurisdiction”, the order added.

It further stated: “All such cases that pertain to national security affairs be fixed for in-camera hearing and if it is an important matter, then a larger bench may hear them after being briefed by heads of top investigative institutions. And directives shall be issued to not report such cases in media.”

The IHC appreciated all court assistants (amicus curiae) who assisted it on the matter of enforced disappearances during the case.