Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Monday berated the interior secretary, police and capital authorities after they failed to produce Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Joint Director Sajid Gondal, who has been missing since last week.
IHC had directed authorities to recover Gondal, who had gone missing on Thursday night, by today. The court was hearing a petition filed by Gondal’s mother, seeking recovery of her son from “unknown” abductors.
During today’s proceedings, Justice Minallah noted that authorities had been unsuccessful in producing the SECP official before the court and said: “Give court one example of [a case] in which missing citizen was recovered.”
“Someone should accept responsibility for this,” the high court top judge remarked.
He asked interior secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar if the prime minister had been “told what is happening in the federal capital”.
“I am sure you have not told the prime minister about this [case]. As soon as the prime minister gets to know about this, the state’s response would be different,” Justice Minallah said, adding that the court had “complete confidence” in the prime minister.
Khokhar tried to assure the court that a “high-level” investigation was underway.
“A first information report has been lodged and investigation has started,” he said.
“You [should] accept your failure,” the judge remarked, adding that “everyone in the federal capital was feeling insecure”. He observed that the current situation was a product of “misgovernance”.
“We are doing everything we can,” Khokar said.
“Your efforts are not visible,” the judge said. “For the [past] three days, only meetings are being held, the SECP official could not be found.”
“How would you have acted if such a thing happened with a federal minister’s son?” Justice Minallah asked. He directed Khokhar to notify the federal cabinet about the matter. The interior secretary told the court that the prime minister will be informed and the matter will be placed before the federal cabinet in the next meeting.
Justice Minallah said that there were reports that the commission for missing persons had taken notice of Gondal’s “abduction”.
“Has it been established that this is a case of enforced disappearance that the commission took notice?” he asked. He inquired if the commission’s chairperson had found some information that indicated that this was a case of enforced disappearance, adding if the investigators have contacted the missing persons’ commission.
“Is this a case of enforced disappearance?” the judge asked.
“Nothing can be said about this right now,” Khokhar responded. Justice Minallah said that the police’s investigation team should have contacted the chairperson of the commission to ask if the latter has some “personal information”.
The judge also lamented that investigation officers were not properly trained and that there was not even a prosecution branch in Islamabad. What should a constitutional court do in such cases, he asked.
Khokhar urged the court to “let state departments do their job”.
Justice Minallah noted that the court was the “protector of people’s constitutional right” while adding that it will not interfere in the investigation.
He adjourned the case until September 17 and directed authorities “not to come in with a clarification” in the upcoming hearing.
Gondal had gone missing on Thursday night and his car was found from Park Road the next morning. According to the petition filed by his mother, at about 7:30pm, Gondal went out of his home situated at Shahzad Town, Islamabad, on his official vehicle bearing registration No GAE 496, but never came back. His car was found parked on Main Park Road, near National Agriculture Research Centre office, Islamabad.
Gondal’s wife had submitted a complaint of the incident in the Shahzad Town police station, expressing suspicion that her husband had been “kidnapped by unidentified persons”. She urged the police to ensure his return, adding that the family “did not have any enmity”. Until that time, police did not lodge an FIR.
The next day, Gondal’s mother filed a habeas corpus petition in the IHC.