With a back and forth between the Supreme Court and the Frontier Corps (FC) having continued for months over the Balochistan law and order case, it seems things are finally set to wrap up – and the FC is not likely to get off lightly.
The apex court is likely to conclude the case today (Wednesday), and the police and bureaucracy are just as likely to come under fire. In Tuesday’s hearing, FC Inspector General (IG) Maj Gen Obaidullah Khattak in particular faced the court’s ire for failing to comply with orders in the case.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, rejecting the FC IG’s report, stated that “We will give a negative report about the officers (in the verdict), but then it will be up to the government to take action.”
Later, the Balochistan home secretary informed the bench that insurgent groups are behind the recent mining blasts, but assured the court that forces have been deployed at various points to control the situation and keep an eye on insurgent activities.
But even the mention of such deployment further angered the chief justice, who said, “We gave you details about each and every person, gave evidence against the FC’s involvement in abductions – was it a futile exercise?”
In the middle of this, it was unlikely that the FC IG would be granted police powers by the court to conduct a door-to-door search of missing persons in the province – and when advocate Raja Irshad sought these powers on behalf of Maj Gen Khattak, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja dismissed it, saying the FC was already enjoying police powers.
“Neither the FC, nor the Military Intelligence (MI), the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), or the defence authorities are doing the right job. So it’s fine for the court to dispose of this case and set you people free to do whatever you want,” the chief justice said ironically, adding an early verdict of sorts: “It is a total failure and a constitutional breakdown because no one is willing to deliver.”
The court then told Irshad to submit in writing that the FC was in no position to maintain law and order adding that they should let the law take its course. It also asked the FC to surrender people nominated in FIRs of murder and abduction, saying that they would be set free if they were found innocent.
Meanwhile, Maj Gen Khattak continued to deny any FC involvement in the case of eight missing people. The list of the eight people had been provided by the SC, which asked the FC to present them before the court.
Justice Khawaja remarked that the list had been produced after carefully examining witnesses and circumstantial evidence. He observed that civil society and media had to visit Dera Bugti and submit a report about ‘no go areas’ but that no such report had arrived before the court as yet.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Advocate General Amanullah Kanrani at this juncture submitted the contrary statement that though the visits could not be arranged, “There is not a single no-go area in Balochistan.”
A sceptical chief justice, however, said that if the provincial government was so convinced, it should give in writing a statement that it has not failed to establish the writ of the state.
“We are left with no option, we want to avoid it, but since you are not delivering, we will now pass a negative order against all stakeholders,” the chief justice said.
Later adjourning the case till today, the CJP directed the inspector general of police, the FC IG, defence authorities, and federal and provincial governments to submit statements indicating that they have failed to ensure law and order.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.