Pakistan’s ISI quizzed over missing men
ISLAMABAD A LAWYER for Pakistan’s Intelligence Service (ISI) faced court on Thursday, unable to explain why seven men acquitted of terror charges were allegedly held for 18 months after their release was ordered.
The seven appeared before Supreme Court judges on February 13 in poor health, barely able to stand or talk, prompting judges to ask why they went missing despite their release being granted in May 2010.
The group had been held over a November 2007 suicide attack on security forces that killed at least 20 people and an October 2009 siege on army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
“Under which law had you been detaining them?” chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry asked Raja Irshad, a lawyer representing the ISI and military intelligence.
Irshad did not reply directly, but instead said the court’s questions were “being conveyed to the concerned authorities.” The case is being seen as a challenge to the widelyheld view that Pakistan’s shadowy ISI operates above the law.
The ISI is accused in the West of maintaining links to Taliban and Islamist militants, whom it has historically sponsored.
Defending the ISI, Irshad called on parliament to pass more effective anti-terrorism laws to ensure suspects in highprofile cases are not acquitted on the basis on insufficient evidence.
“They may have attacked General Headquarters or Hamza Camp, but bring the evidence,” Chaudhry said in response. He pressed Irshad on alleged abuses in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, where security services are accused of killing and detaining hundreds of people in a bid to crush a six-year separatist insurgency.
“Dead bodies are being found and Baluchistan is on fire,” the judge said.
The court originally demanded that 11 men linked to the terror attacks be produced, but it was told four of them had died.
Irshad said the intelligence services accepted the constitutional authority of the court and that the seven surviving men were being given medical care at a hospital following court orders.