Unhappy with a ‘defiant’ news conference of the chief of paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), the Supreme Court warned on Monday that it could summon army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, reprimanded the FC chief, Maj-Gen Obaidullah Khattak, for his ‘defiance of the court’ during the June 3 news conference at the FC headquarters in Quetta.
The bench was hearing a suo motu case on the volatile security situation in Balochistan.
Maj-Gen Khattak had blamed ‘foreign agencies’ for the unrest in Balochistan – virtually exonerating his force of all charges which, according to him, were part of a ‘smear campaign’ against his force by ‘anti-state elements’.
Justice Chaudhry ordered that the video of the news conference be presented before the bench. The video will also be sent to the Army chief and the secretaries to the ministries of defence and interior for necessary action, he said.
“If this is the state of affairs, then we could pass a coercive order without any fear and the Army chief can be summoned to the court to comment on the press conference,” warned the top judge.
“We can question Gen Kayani about the kind of message his uniformed general had conveyed to us by ‘gifting’ us three bodies in response to our orders for the production of the three persons picked up by the FC,” he said. “We cannot ignore Balochistan. It is like our body part.”
When Raja Irshad, the counsel for the spy agencies, claimed that ‘foreign elements’ had a major role in the Balochistan unrest, Justice Chaudhry said, “Then what are you (Pakistani intelligence agencies) doing there?”
Interestingly, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, chairman of the inquiry commission on missing persons, on Saturday corroborated Maj-Gen Khattak’s claim that ‘foreign powers’ were fuelling unrest in Balochistan.
But the chief justice seemed unconvinced.
“If they (foreign agencies) are operating in the province, then why have our law-enforcement agencies failed to take action against them?” he said.
Justice Chaudhry lamented that while the security situation remained fluid, the FC chief was addressing news conferences – which is contrary to the court orders.
“I wonder if the FC chief is looking forward to a confrontation with the court. There are dozens of cases against the FC,” he said, adding that many ministers have levelled allegations against the paramilitary force.
The chief justice told the spy agencies’ attorney that it was his responsibility to ensure that suspects were kept in jail and not murdered.
To this, Irshad asserted that an anarchy-like situation prevailed across the country and not just in Balochistan — insisting that there was no implementation of the Constitution and the ministers’ charges against the FC were untrue.
The chief justice wondered that a ‘person representing the secret agencies’ believed there was no Constitution in the country and that the elected representatives of the people were lying. “You have no right to malign public representatives,” he said.
Then the court should pass an order for FC’s withdrawal from the province, Irshad said.
This is the task of a magistrate, shot back Justice Chaudhry.
Justice Jawwad S Khwaja then asked Irshad to present evidence suggesting presence of foreign agencies in Balochistan. The court also asked him to produce at least four or five persons before the bench or the Supreme Court registrar to prove his assertion.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.