ISLAMABAD  - The Supreme Court Monday issued notices to Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhawa governments to submit details of missing persons in their respective provinces.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, was hearing the application of Chairman Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) Nasrullah Baloch. The applicant, who is pursuing the Baloch enforced disappearance cases in the Supreme Court for the last many years, sought protection as he had been receiving threats.

The bench on the complaint of the petitioner ordered the Balochistan government to file a report about the mortuaries, and process of keeping dead bodies.

Nasrullah Baloch informed the court that founding of disfigured bodies in various parts of Balochistan has become routine and the authorities bury them before the relatives of the missing persons reach those places, where they are kept, for identification.

He complained that a few hospitals in the province have facility of mortuary. He requested the bench to order that the found disfigured bodies should be kept in mortuaries for at least a month, so that the relatives could identify the bodies.

Justice Jawwad remarked they did not have exact data of missing persons all over the country. He said according to media report, a large number of missing persons were in the Punjab, adding this was national issue, therefore, the government should devise a strategy to resolve it.

Earlier, Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Butt informed the court that they have submitted an application for constituting a larger bench to decide the legal questions pertaining to the trial of serving military officers for their role allegedly in missing persons’ cases.

Justice Khawaja heading a three-member bench on May 15, 2014 had formulated three questions: First, when a person is accused of committing an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and that person is serving in the Pakistan Army, is it the ordinary criminal (forums) courts, set up under the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C), which are to try him, or is it for forums under the Pakistan Army Act to try such an accused?

Secondly, is it the ordinary criminal courts (in the present case, the courts in Malakand) that are obliged to accede to the request made by the army authorities, or is it within the discretion of the ordinary courts to determine whether or not to allow the request of army authorities to transfer the case to them?

Thirdly, if it is for the ordinary forums to exercise discretion in the matter of a request received from the army authorities, what is the basis on which such a request should be considered, and then allowed or declined?