Pak CJ refuses to meet UN officials probing 'disappearances'

Pak CJ refuses to meet UN officials probing 'disappearances'

Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary today declined to meet UN officials investigating enforced disappearances, with the Supreme Court saying the issue is sub-judice as several cases of missing persons are pending in court.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had expressed a desire to meet with the Chief Justice during its ongoing visit to Pakistan.

The Foreign Ministry sent two letters to the Supreme Court, saying it supported a meeting of the UN officials with the Chief Justice.

"Through a letter dated 10.9.2012 of (the Supreme) Court, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was informed that as the cases of missing persons are pending before this court, therefore, propriety demanded that the Chief Justice of Pakistan may not discuss the matter which is sub-judice," said a statement issued by the apex court's spokesman.

"Therefore, regrets were conveyed to the Ministry, expressing the inability of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to receive the UN delegation," the statement said.

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is visiting Pakistan at the invitation of the government.

The UN officials arrived in the country yesterday on a 10-day visit. This is the UN Working Group's first visit to Pakistan.

During the mission, UN experts will gather information on cases of enforced disappearances and study measures adopted by Pakistan to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances, including issues related to truth, justice and reparation for victims of such disappearances.

The Working Group will visit several parts of the country and meet with officials, representatives of civil society organizations, relatives of disappeared persons and representatives of UN agencies.

The Working Group is represented by Olivier de Frouville and by Osman El-Hajje.
The independent experts will be accompanied by members of the Secretariat of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The UN Working Group's visit has already triggered an angry reaction from some politicians.

Minister of State for Housing Mohammad Raza Hayat Hiraj told the National Assembly or lower house of parliament yesterday that the UN Working Group's visit amounted to interference in Pakistan’s internal matters.

Hiraj remarked that the issue of missing persons is already being investigated by the Supreme Court and a parliamentary committee.

"There are other motives behind this," said Hiraj, who belongs to the PML-Q, a key ally of the ruling Pakistan People's Party.

"Is this (Pakistan) a banana republic?" Hiraj said.

He expressed concern that the report of the UN team would be used to highlight the views of "one per cent" separatists of Balochistan and demanded that the National Assembly debate the issue.

Kashmir Affairs Minister Manzoor Wattoo appreciated Hiraj's concern and agreed with him on the need for a debate on "a matter of national security".

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