In an unprecedented move to pacify frayed tempers in Balochistan, a parliamentary panel has asked the country’s spy agencies to not overstep their authority.
Baloch insurgents and rights groups have long accused the intelligence agencies of ‘wanton killings’ in the volatile province in the name of national security.
However, the effectiveness of Wednesday’s orders of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) are yet to be seen as the chiefs of both spy agencies didn’t turn up at the session.
The security establishment has always denied that spy agencies are behind enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in Balochistan.
The spy chiefs were supposed to brief the committee, which met to discuss the internal security with specific reference to Balochistan’s unrest, said a participant.
He added that officials from the defence ministry informed the committee that the ISI and MI had sought time to prepare a briefing for the lawmakers.
Voicing concern at the absence of the ISI and MI chiefs, the committee rejected the defense ministry’s request. A Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker, who boycotted the proceedings, said that he did not attend the meeting because he knew ‘the ISI and MI chiefs would not appear’.
“It’s a waste of time and waste of resources. It is a futile exercise. Intelligence agencies never pay heed to directions and orders issued by the committee,” Sheikh Rohail Asghar told The Express Tribune.
Officially nothing was said about the in-camera meeting, chaired by Azra Fazal Pechuho. However, sources told The Express Tribune that the director general of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Balochistan home secretary and other officials briefed the committee about the current situation in the restive province.
The committee, it was said, voiced concerns at the increasing movement of foreign nationals in Balochistan and directed the provincial government to keep an eye on their movement. The committee was told that there were 643 foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, working in Balochistan.
The increasingly unchecked movement of diplomats and foreign NGO workers with Baloch locals was also pointed out during Wednesday’s meeting. When asked about the recovery of missing persons, the panel was told that out of 46 missing persons, 10 had been recovered.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2012.