Poor Law and order | Bullet-riddled bodies found in Nowshera district

View from the courtroom: Dumping of bodies continues

The dumping of bodies in different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal areas has become a recurring phenomenon with the investigation officers groping in the dark. The recovery of six unidentified bullet-riddled bodies on Saturday in Nizampur area of Nowshera district is the latest addition in such occurrences. The officials at Nizampur police station said that they had been investigating the matter, but could not trace identity of the six persons.
The deceased were stated to be between 25 to 35 years of age and five of them were sporting beards. The bodies were in bad shape and carrying marks of multiple bullet shots. The officials said that they were not sure who were behind the killings and what was their motive.
Last month, five bodies stuffed in gunnysacks were recovered in Bara Banda area in Risalpur police station limits in Nowshera. Four of the deceased were identified as Asghar Ali, Noor Rehman, Irshad Ali and Mushtaq Ali. They had gone missing a few months before their deaths and FIRs were registered against their disappearances in their respective police stations.
An official at the Risalpur police station told this reporter that the case had now been investigated by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and the local police, but so far there was no progress. He said that they were not sure who had taken away these persons and for what reason.
A few days ago the Peshawar High Court disposed of a habeas corpus petition regarding “enforced disappearance” of a person whose body was later found stuffed in a gunnysack in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency on Nov 21, 2013. The petitioner, Asadullah Khan, brother of the deceased Roohullah, did not want to pursue the case as his counsel claimed that he was under pressure from the police. The petitioner had alleged that his brother was taken away by sleuths of an intelligence agency from outside the Peshawar Central Prison soon after his release on the orders of a local anti-terrorism court.
Last year, during pendency of this petition the high court had directed the federal secretaries of defence and interior ministries to inform the bench concerning the whereabouts of Mr Roohullah. However, the elements involved in his disappearance dumped his body conveying a message that they had less regard for the court orders.
According to police record, Mr Roohullah was a ‘would-be suicide bomber’ and initially arrested on May 24, 2013 along with his mother, three brothers and another person by the officials of Chamkani police station from their residence at Tarnab Farm area. Police alleged that during the raid they had recovered explosives. An anti-terrorism court acquitted all the six suspects in Aug 2013.
While the other five persons were released, Mr Roohullah was charged in another case and kept imprisoned. He was granted bail in that case and when he came out of prison on Sept 6, 2013, he was allegedly taken away by unidentified persons while his family members witnessed the occurrence.
In Aug 2012, then PHC chief justice Dost Mohammad Khan had taken suo motu notice of the issue following reports that 26 bodies were dumped in different areas. Subsequently, several other bodies were found dumped in different areas and it transpired that several of the deceased were “missing persons”.
One thing common in most of those mysterious deaths was that these persons were mostly taken away by law enforcing agencies and had remained missing for many months and some for years. They had died in very miserable conditions as several of them were starved to death. Their bodies were also carrying marks of torture.
The court had in one of the hearings ruled that the dumping of bodies in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas amounted to extrajudicial killings and the government should pay compensation to legal heirs of deceased persons.
The court had also directed constitution of a joint investigation team of competent officers for ascertaining the facts behind those killings. Last year, the police had submitted a confidential report to the court wherein it had suspected the involvement of intelligence agencies behind such killings.
That case could not be pursued further in the high court as the Supreme Court had in 2013 placed restrictions on the suo motu powers exercised by a high court’s chief justice.
From time to time international and national human rights bodies, including the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, have been highlighting the issue of custodial killings and other abuses mostly originating because of conflicts in different areas. However, the concerned quarters, including intelligence agencies, always remained in state of denial and never accepted that such things happened in the country.
A lawyer dealing with the missing persons’ cases believe that the cases of dumping of bodies could not be resolved by the police as they mostly suspected involvement of intelligence agencies in it and the local police were scared of them. He added that one thing was clear that this phenomenon was far from over and would continue to persist unless conflicts in different regions come to an end.
Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2014

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