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Law Minister Challenges Court’s Authority to Summon Military Officers in Missing Poet Case

ISLAMABAD: On Monday, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, addressing the judiciary with “all due respect,” stated that it was not within their mandate to summon senior military officers and government officials to court in the case of a missing poet.

This statement came shortly after Islamabad High Court’s Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani made stern remarks against security agencies for failing to recover missing Kashmiri poet and journalist Ahmed Farhad Shah.

During the hearing, Justice Kayani criticized military officials and warned that the court would summon the prime minister and his cabinet if the poet was not found.

“This is not the mandate of the court; it is a platform for providing justice in line with the law and Constitution,” Tarar said during a press conference in Islamabad, highlighting the growing rift between institutions.

The minister explained that when a “habeas petition” is filed, the court seeks answers, and it is the government’s responsibility to respond “with all seriousness.”

“If the issue isn’t resolved, then according to the law that has been in place for the past 50 years, the matter is handed over to the police, and an FIR is lodged to ensure the person’s recovery,” Tarar added.

Regarding Shah’s disappearance, which is currently under judicial consideration, Tarar refrained from speaking extensively but expressed that the court’s remarks had caused him “hurt.”

Calling the remarks “inappropriate,” the law minister said they could spread “unrest.” He noted that a representative from the defence ministry had already informed the court that the poet was not in their custody.

“It is not the court’s mandate to declare that these issues ‘will not be resolved like this.’ The institutions also informed the court that they are ready to assist the police in any way possible,” he said.

Tarar pointed out that media channels, citing the judge, reported that the prime minister and his cabinet would be summoned, which he said “undermines the sanctity of parliament.”

At the beginning of the hearing, a representative from the Ministry of Defence informed the court: “Hostage [Shah] is not with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).”

The official added that the ISI denied involvement in the poet’s enforced disappearance. The judge responded: “Now the matter has gone beyond the jurisdiction of the ISI and the Military Intelligence (MI). They are admitting their failure.”

Justice Kayani ordered the defence secretary to submit a written report to the high court and directed the defence and interior secretaries to appear before the court.

The judge also mentioned that he would later summon Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and cabinet members, emphasizing the complexity of the case and the need to set an example.

Justice Kayani criticized the agencies, stating: “They [spy agencies] are sending messages [to the family], but on the other hand, they claim the person is not in their custody.”

He further remarked on the law enforcement agencies’ failure to recover the abducted individual and questioned the sector commander’s competence, stating: “Does the sector commander live on the moon? What’s his stature? He’s an 18th-grade officer who should stay within his [constitutional] limits. Do not follow them; the country can run without them.”

The court directed the investigation officer to record the sector commander’s statement and submit it by Tuesday. Justice Kayani also stated that he would dismiss the petition if the missing poet was a terrorist or named in any case.

Meanwhile, an additional attorney general informed the court that an FIR had been lodged and the police were investigating. In response, the judge reminded the additional attorney of the police’s duties and asked if lodging an FIR was considered a favor.

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