Irked by the apparent apathy of the government towards Balochistan, which is sliding into chaos, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry issued an ominous warning on Wednesday: If the prime minister doesn’t take steps to improve the law and order, the Constitution will declare a state of emergency.
“The judiciary is an organ of the state. It’ll not allow violation of the Constitution. We want to save Pakistan,” Justice Chaudhry said while heading a three-judge bench of the apex court hearing a case on the volatility of security situation in Balochistan.
“Why don’t we implement the Constitution” before the Army imposes martial law, he said.
Attempts by the prime minister’s principal secretary and the defence secretary to list the steps taken by the government to stabilise the province failed to impress the chief justice. Has the premier ever summoned Balochistan’s governor or chief minister over the security situation, he asked.
“We respect the prime minister. But if he doesn’t take steps for the improvement of law and order, the Constitution will declare emergency and take other steps as well,” Justice Chaudhry said.
Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi informed the court that she has met with officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence, and that the head of the former agency was ready to brief the court on the Balochistan situation.
Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Khushnood Lashari told the court that Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad has been posted as Balochistan chief secretary, while the federating units have been empowered politically and economically under the 18th constitutional amendment.
He added that the government has also announced Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package for the betterment of the people.
The bench, however, observed that the prime minister ought to have paid more attention to the precarious situation in the province. Lashari assured the court that he would submit the prime minister’s stance at the next hearing.
After this, the hearing was adjourned till June 1.
Over in Islamabad, Premier Gilani told a cabinet meeting that his government holds the apex court in high esteem. He directed his principal secretary and the cabinet secretary to appear before the court in Quetta.
However, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the judiciary has no authority to declare a state of emergency as it is solely the prerogative of the executive.
Law and order situation
Quoting a statement by Salauddin Mengal, Justice Chaudhry said that the law and order situation in the province was so grave that one would not find a single Pakistani flag or the national anthem being played even 10 miles away from Quetta.
“I will not be holding this post tomorrow. Similarly, governments come and go but the country is here to stay. We should realise the [gravity of] the situation,” he remarked.
While an order was being read out about the recovery of some missing persons, the chief justice turned to Balochistan’s advocate general Balochistan and asked who had detained those people?
“The bench should be informed who is behind picking up people. We are here to extinguish the fire that has engulfed the province,” Justice Khilji Arif Hussain remarked.
Balochistan home minister issued notice
The apex court bench also issued notices to Balochistan Home Minister Zafarullah Zehri for allegedly abducting a man.
One Asha Bibi had submitted a petition accusing Zehri of abducting her son in 2004 and demanding Rs50 million for his release.
The court granted the police more time to investigate the incident and directed them to submit a detailed report at the next hearing.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.