Missing lawyer: IHC chief justice reiterates concern over ‘abductions’

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday once again expressed concern over the “deteriorating law and order situation” in the capital after a lawyer was allegedly abducted from his home by unidentified individuals before being released two days later.

Advocate Hammad Saeed Dar, who was taken away from his home in the early hours of Saturday, appeared in the court to detail the ordeal he allegedly went through.

The case was heard by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who had taken up a petition filed by Dar’s father seeking his recovery. The court had earlier ordered Dar’s recovery by Monday in a notice to the interior secretary and Islamabad inspector general of police.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police (Operations) Waqaruddin Syed, Saddar Superintendent of Police Sarfaraz Virk and SP (Investigations) Malik Naeem, and other officials were present at the hearing.

Speaking to reporters at the court, Dar said the bell of his house located in the Tarnol area was rung at around 1:30am on Saturday. Around 12-15 people standing outside told his father that they wanted to meet Dar.

Although only two of them were invited inside, 10 individuals allegedly forced their way into the house and apprehended Dar as soon as they spotted him, the lawyer said.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday once again expressed concern over the “deteriorating law and order situation” in the capital after a lawyer was allegedly abducted from his home by unidentified individuals before being released two days later.

Advocate Hammad Saeed Dar, who was taken away from his home in the early hours of Saturday, appeared in the court to detail the ordeal he allegedly went through.

The case was heard by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who had taken up a petition filed by Dar’s father seeking his recovery. The court had earlier ordered Dar’s recovery by Monday in a notice to the interior secretary and Islamabad inspector general of police.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police (Operations) Waqaruddin Syed, Saddar Superintendent of Police Sarfaraz Virk and SP (Investigations) Malik Naeem, and other officials were present at the hearing.

Speaking to reporters at the court, Dar said the bell of his house located in the Tarnol area was rung at around 1:30am on Saturday. Around 12-15 people standing outside told his father that they wanted to meet Dar.

Although only two of them were invited inside, 10 individuals allegedly forced their way into the house and apprehended Dar as soon as they spotted him, the lawyer said.

He alleged that his personal belongings including his laptop and cell phone were confiscated and he was blindfolded and taken away in a car. He was driven around in the car for about half an hour before being taken to a room where he was detained.

Dar said he could not identify his alleged abductors and did not know “what they wanted from me”.

“I said if there is a complaint or arrest warrant against me, I can present myself. [But] they didn’t tell me anything,” he added.

Justice Minallah remarked during the hearing that no prompt action had been taken by the police and inquired if any action had been taken against the concerned station house officer (SHO). He said the “state’s attitude is not correct”.

DIG Syed said a First Information Report was registered of the case and a show-cause notice had also been issued to the concerned SHO.

Justice Minallah said that incidents of abductions were “a serious matter” and they have continued taking place without the culprits responsible being found. He asked DIG Syed to thoroughly investigate the matter in detail and make an example out of the case. DIG Syed was ordered to submit the details of the investigation report in 10 days to the court.

In his detailed order, the judge said that Hammad was allegedly abducted from his home on Saturday morning and had appeared before the court. “He has stated that the abductors after keeping him in illegal detention for forty-eight hours had released him,” the order said.

“This court has been consistently pointing out the deteriorating law and order situation and alleged abduction of citizens,” Justice Minallah wrote, noting that the 1400-square mile area of Islamabad Capital Territory was directly supervised and administratively controlled by the federal government.

“The most cherished and valuable fundamental right is [the] liberty of a citizen; the latter’s security and the right not to be deprived from freedom of movement; the right not to be detained otherwise in accordance with law,” he added.

The order said the right to a fair trial and due process were an integral part of the guaranteed right under Article 10-A of the Constitution.

“An abduction may not be an ‘enforced disappearance’ but even such a perception is unimaginable and intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights,” it read.

The IHC chief justice noted that the abductee in the present case was not the only victim. “The petitioner, who is his father, and other close relatives must have suffered the most,” he said.

“In such an eventuality, [a] lack of response, non-cooperative and negative attitude of the agents of the state i.e. public functionaries becomes the most detestable form and manifestation of breach of constitutional obligations,” the judge added.

He said the grievance of, particularly regarding the response of public functionaries in the case, “cannot be justified on any ground whatsoever”, adding that the nature of the alleged incident was one of the “most heinous crimes” which ought to have been given the highest priority by the public functionaries.

“Regrettably the facts and circumstances in the case in hand indicate otherwise,” the order said.

“The nature of the complaint […] definitely puts a far higher onus to be discharged by the public functionaries in order to establish their bonafides by clearly demonstrating on the basis of the outcome of investigation that, not only in this case but in every other case of similar nature, the perpetrators of the crime are identified and proceeded [against] in accordance with law.”

According to the court order, the IG police is “expected to ensure that the complaint of the petitioner is thoroughly investigated and the public functionaries found responsible for lack of prompt and effective response are held accountable and dealt with in accordance with law”.

The judge also directed interior secretary to place copies of the court order before the prime minister and members of his cabinet.

“This court is confident that they will take appropriate measures so that the fundamental rights are protected and no citizen becomes a victim of lack of prompt and effective response on part of agents of the state,” he wrote.

While expressing faith in the government’s commitment to restore rule of law in the capital, the order stated: “The abysmal state of law and order consistently observed by this court in numerous cases ought to be immediately redressed.”

The Islamabad police chief and interior secretary were directed to submit reports into the matter. The next hearing of the case will be held on January 15.

In a video released before he appeared for the hearing, Dar said, “I am deeply grateful to Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah, Islamabad High Court Bar [and] Islamabad Bar Association [who] raised voice for my release.”

The bar association had called for a strike of Islamabad-based lawyers on Monday to protest against the abduction. The bar secretary said: “Islamabad Bar Association condemns [the] illegal and unconstitutional move to abduct Hammad Saeed. Action should be taken against the accused to rescue [him].” (Daily Times)

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