Pakistan has a habit of crying ‘sovereignty’ every time foreigners attempt to do what it should already be doing. Trying to kill hardened militants should be the number one priority for the government and the military but instead, both have made themselves hoarse complaining about US drone strikes, which in most cases do exactly that. Similarly, were we seriously concerned about the hundreds of ‘missing’ people; we should have tried and addressed that issue on our own and prevented it from developing into a situation where a team from the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) had to be invited to visit Pakistan. The issue is serious enough to merit sustained hearings on it by the country’s apex Court where it has, very admirably, tried to hold the powers that be, to account.
However, the irony is that while the UN team came to Pakistan at the invitation of the ministry of foreign affairs, it was unable to meet several senior officials and functionaries — these included the chief justice, senior military commanders, including the IG of the FC in Balochistan and heads of intelligence agencies.
This gives the impression that certain sections of the government work at cross-purposes, especially since the UN team was here at the government’s invitation. It also reinforces the views laid out by the team, in their press conference, where it said that the disappearances were linked to military and paramilitary operations in the war on terror, and in the case of Balochistan, the insurgency going on in that province. It also noted a wide disparity in the numbers of disappeared people, saying that Baloch groups quoted thousands of people, while the government claimed the figure was “under 100”. Its recommendations that the intelligence agencies be brought under greater government control and that the state needs to understand the need for respecting the rights of even those accused of waging war against the state make sense. The government has talked a good game on Balochistan but clearly, it does not seem to be calling the shots on this issue. Those who have been detained incommunicado should be charged or released. That is the only way forward in Balochistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.