8:05 07ISLAMABAD637 Embassy Islamabad CONFIDENTIAL "VZCZCXRO1484
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #0637/01 0390805
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 080805Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 000637
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/08/2017
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PTER, PHUM, PK
SUBJECT: SUPREME COURT'S DEMAND TO ACCOUNT FOR MISSING
DRAWS LIMITED GOVERNMENT COOPERATION
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, Peter Bodde, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) On October 9, 2006, after agitation by human rights organizations and repeated public protests by family members, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Government to locate 41 missing Pakistanis believed to have been arrested by government authorities and subsequently held incommunicado, often for years. The Court's action is the first official acknowledgement that the government crossed a red line in its pursuit of the war on terror and against Baloch and Sindhi political activists. President Musharraf has publicly praised the benefits of an independent judiciary for the strengthening of democratic institutions; however, the government has yet to fully comply with the court's orders. Without cooperation from Pakistan's powerful intelligence and security agencies, however, there is little chance of accounting for up to 600 others who are still missing. This is the first in a series of three cables discussing Pakistan's missing. End summary.
A Husband's Disappearance Starts a Movement
2. (U) On the morning of July 30, 2005, Amina Janjua's husband, Masood, left his house in Rawalpindi. According to press interviews with his wife, he and his traveling companian, Faisal Faraz, had reservations for a 10:00 bus to Peshawar. Janjua and Faraz never made it to their destination, she said. Rawalpindi police told Janjua they would not be able to help her locate her husband (a routine reply in cases of intelligence agency arrests). Masood's father – a retired lieutenant colonel who, according to press reports, served with President Musharraf in the army's elite Special Services Group – made his own inquiries and finally delivered a letter to President Musharraf personally. The first word of her husband came in May 2006, Janjua told the press, in the form of a phone call from President Musharraf's military secretary, Lieutenant General Shafqaat Ahmad, who told her only that Masood was alive. (Note: President Musharraf's spokesman denied the phone call, but acknowledged that Musharraf instructed his staff to check with the intelligence agencies for Masood's whereabouts, to no avail. End Note.)
3. (C) In December 2005, Janjua filed a habeus corpus petition jointly with Zeinab Khatton, Faisal's mother, to push the government to reveal the two men's whereabouts.
Later, Janjua told PolOff, she read a news story about a man who had been abducted by intelligence agencies the day after his wedding. The man's story touched her, she said, so she contacted his family to provide moral support. Janjua told local journalists to let her know when they learned about others in the same situation, and her network grew. Janjua also teamed up with Khalid Khawaja, head of the Islamic Center for Research and Defense of Human Rights, to organize press conferences and protest marches. (Note: Khawaja is a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official and air force officer who is now a vocal critic of the Musharraf government. In December 2005, Khawaja told The Asia Times that the terror-related arrests are "a racket by the Pakistani and all other Muslim governments to trade support for their dictatorships in the garb of al-Qaeda arrests." End Note.)
4. (U) The families of the missing banded together publicly. By August 2006, Janjua was leading sit-ins and protests in Islamabad. By the time the Supreme Court reviewed her case, there were a total of 17 names on her list, all of whom had been arrested for alleged terrorist associations.
Supreme Court's Demand Spurs Some Action, Some Obfuscation
5. (U) In October 2006, ten days after Amnesty International published a damning report about the government's handling of the missing ("Pakistan: Human Rights Ignored in the War on Terror" — www.web.amnesty.org/pages/stoptorture-061208- features-eng), the Supreme Court held a hearing on Janjua's petition. Combining her list of 17 with 24 other cases of missing Baloch and Sindhi nationalists, the Court ordered the Ministry of Interior and the Attorney General of Pakistan to inform the families of the whereabouts of 41 missing persons.
6. (U) On December 1, Deputy Attorney General Naseer Saeed Sheikh told Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry that the Government had found 21 and released 10 of the 41 missing.
Deputy Attorney General Sheikh then moved to dismiss the case, claiming the Government had made "hectic efforts" to locate the remaining missing to no avail. Chief Justice Chaudhry denied his request and ordered Mrs. Janjua to take affidavits from those who had been released, as they had reportedly seen other missing people in the custody of the intelligence agencies. Chief Justice Chaudhry also ordered representatives from ISI, Military Intelligence (MI), and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to appear at the next hearing.
7. (U) On January 22, Deputy Attorney General Sheikh claimed the Government had released 25 of the 41 missing, but still had no information about 16 others. Janjua told the Chief Justice that she had only been able to account for 18 people, not 25. Chief Justice Chaudhry took the Deputy Attorney General to task upon learning that the Government had not prepared responses to the affidavits Janjua had provided regarding the remaining missing. Chief Justice Chaudhry ordered that Attorney General Makhdoom Ali Khan attend the next hearing, scheduled for February 6. (Note: No representative from any intelligence agency has yet attended a court hearing in spite of Chief Justice Chaudhry's order. End Note.)
8. (C) The Supreme Court has focused on 41 missing people, but there are many more whose whereabouts remain unknown. Human rights groups and nationalist political activists estimate that between 200 and 600 individuals are still missing. On January 31, Janujua told PolOff that her personal list of missing people has grown to 120.
9. (C) Comment: For Pakistan, maintaining security and protecting human rights is a delicate and often difficult balance, especially in a country whose legal system is overwhelmed and whose security apparatus is almost never held to account. Many of those taken into custody may have terror links, despite the activists' protests to the contrary. Nevertheless, "disappeared" Pakistanis — innocent and guilty alike — have fallen into a legal black hole. The Supreme Court's activism on the issue is a brave and encouraging start, but there are a number of obstacles that will make solving the problem a serious challenge. Interior Ministry and Attorney General's office must rely on information from Pakistan's powerful intelligence agencies to comply with the Supreme Court's order. So far, this pressure has generated a few releases — often abrupt affairs, in which detainees have reportedly been pushed out of cars, confused and disoriented, and left to find their way home. It remains to be seen whether the Court's scrutiny will have a lasting effect on the way the intelligence agencies do business.
10 (C) Those who have advocated for the missing have also begun to suffer repercussions (septel). The most recent example may be the Chief Justice himself: the local media reported on January 30 that a high court lawyer has lodged a complaint with the National Accountability Board (NAB) regarding Chaudhry's son, Iftikhar Mohammed, for corruption and abuse of power. Local commentators quickly interpreted the NAB investigation as a thinly-veiled hint to the Chief Justice to back off on the Court's investigation. End Comment.
N A D E E M M A L I K