IHC scolds interior secretary over failure to recover Gondal

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday ordered law enforcement agencies to ensure the return of missing Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Additional Joint Director Sajid Gondal by September 17.

The directives were issued by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah while hearing a case related to the missing SECP official. During the hearing, Chief Justice Athar Minallah berated the interior secretary, police and capital authorities after they failed to produce Gondal, who has been missing since last week. “Give court one example of [a case] in which missing citizen was recovered,” he asked. “Someone should accept responsibility for this,” he remarked, and 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 has ‘complete confidence’ in the prime minister.

The judge observed that the federal capital was only 1,400 square miles and this small area had its own inspector general of police and chief commissioner. He noted that the highest court of the country was also located within the federal capital. He asked the officials present whether they had any idea as to how many such cases were being heard by his court. He also wondered how the officials would react if a federal minister’s son had gone missing.

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,” he added.

Justice Minallah 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’. 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.

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