THE Supreme Court has given the government a final two-week deadline to recover the individuals arbitrarily picked up by the intelligence agencies. The case has dragged on for years without any outcome owing to the defiance, first by the Musharraf regime and now the present dispensation. Besides, the general indifference of the government to the court decisions ranging from the missing persons to the NRO amounts to taking on the authority of the courts in a brazen manner. However, in the face of this authoritarianism, the determination of the court gives hope to the missing persons friends and families, who have been running virtually from pillar to post to get their loved ones released and is highly commendable. Most important, this augurs well for the rule of law in the country. The point is what has the government been doing all along and why has it not been able to recover the missing persons so far? Its disregard of the courts philosophy would also raise the question whether it has been able to gain ascendancy effectively over the military that controls the powerful intelligence network in Pakistan. Given the fact that it was a democratic set-up and had come to power with popular support, it was compulsory that it should have lived up to the peoples expectations and stood by those who were the victims of the belligerence of the former regime. However, it is unfortunate that the civilian government is not just following in the footsteps of the previous regime, it intends to go a step further. Justice Javeds statement that the number of the missing persons has been rising indicates that the authoritarian trend of picking up persons continues to be the norm. This is a sad reflection on the democratic credentials of the PPP-led government. Meanwhile, there are a number of Pakistanis, for instance those sold to the US for bounty money and others who have simply vanished into thin air. Their relatives do not even know whether they are alive or not. Our diplomatic missions abroad that are supposed to be looking after such matters, must immediately find out where their cases stand and how they can be repatriated. The agencies need to be reined in and stopped from violating the fundamental rights of the citizens straightaway. The missing persons, many of whom belong to Balochistan, must either be freed or if there is some charge against them, they should be produced before the court and tried under the law. According to the law, every arrested person has to be brought before a magistrate or a court of law within 24 hours, something the Intelligence agencies hardly bother about because they are a law unto themselves. They should be held accountable and forced to follow the due process of law.