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Curious case of the ‘missing’ terror convict

Curious case of the ‘missing’ terror convict

ISLAMABAD: One of the terror convicts whose appeals were turned down by the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench on Thursday was first thought to be a ‘missing person’, was subsequently found and seems to have gone missing once again.

The man in question, Mohammad Ghauri, was accused of masterminding the Dec 2009 attack on a Friday prayer congregation at the Parade Lane Mosque in Rawalpindi, which claimed at least 37 lives. Parade Lane, a housing colony in the garrison city, is home to many senior serving and retired military officers. His death sentence was confirmed on Jan 1, 2016, by the army chief.

Explore: Parade Lane attack: Very unholy act on a holy day

According to the petition, the convict was a student of the Islamic International University Islamabad (IIUI), and went missing from Sector F-10 in Islamabad on Jan 7, 2010.

Javed Iqbal Ghauri, the father of the accused and a former deputy director general from the Press Information Department (PID), had approached Shalimar police station for the registration of an FIR over his son’s disappearance, but to no avail.

The Supreme Court, on Jan 27, 2010, took suo moto notice of his disappearance and directed the Islamabad inspector general of police (IGP) to locate Ghauri. The case remained pending before the court for over a year, and after the police failed to produce Ghauri, the court ordered that an FIR be registered.

An FIR was registered on Feb 16, 2011. On March 21 of the same year, the matter was taken up by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances.

The commission was formed in 2011 by the PPP government to probe cases of missing persons, and was empowered to summon civilian and military intelligence agency officials, as well as officials from other law enforcement agencies.

During the initial proceedings of the case, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) both denied custody of the missing person.

The petition claimed that Abdul Malik – who was detained by intelligence agencies in a cell in ISI’s Hamza camp –said in a deposition before the commission in March 2012 that he met Ghauri in the same cell.

The commission then constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) headed by the Islamabad additional inspector general. According to the petition, the JIT reported that Ghauri was not nominated in any case and was not required in any matter.

On Sep 7 2012, the commission directed intelligence agencies to produce Ghauri, but the agencies in question did not comply. Instead, at a subsequent hearing in May 2013, MI asked the commission to adjourn proceedings.

Then, on May 31 2013, MI informed the commission that Ghauri was in their custody and had been detained at an internment centre in Lakki Marwat.

The petition added that military authorities had facilitated a meeting between the internee and his family, but did not disclose any of the charges levelled against him, and it was on Jan 1 that Ghauri’s family learnt that he had been convicted in the Parade Lane attack.

Mr Ghauri, the convict’s father, told Dawn that his son had been in the custody of military authorities since 2010, but they had never produced him before any court of law.

“If the case against my son was strong, he should have been tried by the courts over the past six years, but they wanted to punish him through the military courts,” he said.

He said that since the conviction, his son’s whereabouts remained unknown. Under the law, Ghauri should have been transferred to a civil jail with intimation to his family members, but Mr Ghauri said his son had not been handed over to the administration of any civilian jail and could still be defined as a ‘missing person’.

But the decision on the petition, authored by a two-member LHC division bench, stated: “Military courts were established by parliament through the 21st amendment in the Constitution, the same was challenged before the honourable Supreme Court, which also validated the establishment of the military courts by majority decisions. We are, therefore, clear in minds that the decision of military courts, which tried and convicted Mohammad Ghauri, son of the petitioner (Javed Ghauri) cannot be considered coram non judice (without any lawful authority).”

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2016

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