In a written order in missing journalists and bloggers case, the Islamabad High Court ordered Prime Minister Imran Khan to direct all agencies working under him to produce Mudassar Naru before the court on December 13 or trace his whereabouts.
The writer, poet and journalist Naru has not been seen since he disappeared on August 20, 2018 while on a vacation with his son and wife in Naran. His wife, Sadaf Chugtai, an artist and activist, died in May 2021 in her sleep, while their son, who is barely four years old lives with his grandparent.
In the written order of the hearing held on December 1, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah wrote if the government failed to follow the orders of the court, the federal cabinet "shall ascertain the agencies and public functionaries responsible for the failure and inform this Court regarding the action taken against them."
In case of failure to produce Naru before the court or trace his whereabouts, the chief justice also ordered the attorney general to appear before the court and "assist regarding the responsibility and liability of the federal government".
Justice Minallah also directed Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari to ensure a meeting of Naru's mother and son with the premier before the next hearing.
In his order, the CJ noted "the practice of enforced disappearances has existed in Pakistan over a considerable time."
"Enforced disappearances is indeed a crime against humanity and one of the most detestable manifestations of violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973," read the order.
He noted the missing journalist was receiving threats, allegedly from "officials of the state institutions." However, the relevant state functionaries "did not respond in accordance with their constitutional obligations," the chief justice added.
The CJ noted a belated FIR was registered against the missing of the journalist after Naru's father approached Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances in October 2018.
Justice Minallah also talked about the report of a Joint Investigation Team constituted to know the whereabouts of the missing journalist which stated "the missing person has gone on his own".
According to the facts and circumstances of the case, "no person of ordinary prudence would form such a conclusion," read the CJ order, adding Naru appeared to have been happily married and he had taken his wife for a holiday where he went missing.
The written order also talked about Naru's child, who is at least four now, and has been attending the court proceedings with his grandmother. "It appears from the record that the missing person had loving parents who are exposed to unimaginable pain and agony because they obviously do not know regarding the status of their son; whether he is alive or not," it added.
Talking about the reports submitted in the court regarding the version of agencies in the matter, the order stated "[the agencies under the control of the federal government] have taken the stance that they were neither involved nor have they any information regarding the whereabouts of the missing person."
Referring to the period of the alleged abduction of Naru, the CJ said the prolonged proceedings before the commission have been inconclusive.
The court maintained it was a constitutional duty of the federal government to inform the petitioner and other loved ones regarding the status of the missing person. "It is a constitutional duty to trace the whereabouts of the missing person failing which the responsible public functionaries must be identified and held accountable," read the order.
In its order, the court put the onus on the federal government to "demonstrably show to the loved ones of the missing person that the state nor its agencies are involved or complacent in abducting the missing person."