I was forced to agree on disposal of habeas corpus plea, reveals A.Q. KhanArchive
ISLAMABAD: Former nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan claimed before the Supreme Court on Thursday that he was forced to sign his consent in an earlier habeas corpus petition as a result of which the Islamabad High Court had disposed of that petition on Feb 6, 2009.
Submitted to the Supreme Court through his counsel Taufiq Asif and Sheikh Ehsanuddin, a hand-written letter by Dr Khan claimed that the earlier consent letter was not of his free will.
A two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Yahya Afridi issued notices to the Strategic Planning Division (SPD) and Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan, asking them to come up with a proper response on the maintainability of Dr Khan’s appeal.
The apex court had taken up Dr Khan’s appeal seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights, including free movement. The appeal was filed against the Sept 25, 2019 Lahore High Court judgement which had rejected Dr Khan’s plea on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction in view of special security measures adopted by the state.
On Feb 6, 2009, the IHC had decided the habeas corpus petition, declaring that the petitioner was a free citizen and the petition was disposed of in terms of Annexure-A, the contents of which were not to be issued to the press or made public in any manner as requested by both sides.
SC issues notices to the Strategic Planning Division, AGP
On Thursday, the AG objected to the language of the letter in which Dr Khan said he did not expect any legal remedy from the IHC.
Justice Afridi observed that Dr Khan should chose either to institute a fresh petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution before the Supreme Court or approach the IHC with a new petition after withdrawing the present petition from the apex court.
Justice Afridi, however, observed that as a judge he could not tolerate demeaning any high court and would discourage the tendency of approaching a different high court after getting a decision from another.
When the hearing commenced, Advocate Asif told the court that in line with an earlier directive of the apex court, his meeting with Dr Khan had been arranged on Wednesday at the latter’s residence during which he had been given a hand-written two-page letter.
In his letter, Dr Khan claimed that he was also forced by certain officials to withdraw the present petition from the apex court and again go to the IHC.
The letter requested the apex court to safeguard his fundamental rights and give him an opportunity to be heard.
The letter said that Dr Khan was taken by the “SPD agents” to the Supreme Court building on Wednesday but they did not produce him in the courtroom, rather kept him at different locations and lastly he was made to sit in a room adjacent to the SC registrar’s office.
“Neither I was produced [in the courtroom] or any opportunity was given to consult my lawyers, nor I was taken to the courtroom to attend the court proceedings,” stated the letter.
Thus the government had violated the directives of the august court regarding his production before the court, the letter said, adding that it had committed the contempt of court.
The letter alleged that Dr Khan had been kept as a prisoner without allowing him any free movement or a meeting with anybody, including his lawyers, which was a violation of his fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
In his appeal, Dr Khan said that he was the pioneer of the nuclear programme of Pakistan. “The petitioner feels proud for having done his bit to secure Pakistan from the evil eyes of the neighbours and other adversaries.”
Dr Khan explained that ever since he came to Pakistan and started working on the nuclear project, he enjoyed personal security befitting his status. But the personnel of security authorities had stationed themselves in the house next door to ensure that no one had access to him, he added. He was allowed neither to move around nor to attend social or academic gatherings without their prior approval, Dr Khan regretted, adding that this amounted to being kept him in virtual confinement.
“This act of them is illegal since no such order had been conveyed to the petitioner warranting the treatment being meted out to him,” he said.
This situation started in Jan 2004 when Dr Khan was put under house arrest on the pretext of “security”.
In Jan 2004, he was put under virtual house arrest on the pretext of security and since it was a sham pretext, illegal and in violation of his fundamental rights, he had no option but to approach the courts, as he was virtually kept under complete isolation, the petition said.
He had no access to any friend so much so that neither his daughter nor her children living a few houses away could meet him, the petitioner said, adding that restraints were so severe that he even could not access the court.
The restraints were relaxed after the change of government in 2008 when the curtailment of movement was relaxed, the petition said, adding that he moved the high court to raise grievance about him being kept in illegal custody without there being any fault on his part.
In the petition before the apex court, the petitioner argued that the LHC order of disposing of his petition was not in consonance with the law laid down by the apex court. Dr Khan’s services for the country had been recognised many times and he had been awarded, the petition said, adding the treatment being meted out to him was violative of his inviolable constitutional right of dignity as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.
It was his fundamental right to move freely throughout the country and meet with anyone individually or in any assembly, the petition said.
The petitioner was being kept under constant fear of being subjected to physical harm, the petition feared, adding that Dr Khan was an old man of 84 years suffering from different ailments and, therefore, he could not be kept under constant restraint.
The petitioner was as good a patriot as anybody else, the petition said.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020