The failure to adhere to Article 9 of the Constitution — which refers to the right of every citizen to life and liberty — in Balochistan is all too evident and has created a state of crisis in the province. Furthermore, the situation is worsening with every passing year. The fact that this has been taken up by the Supreme Court as an urgent matter is welcome, though there may be some Baloch who may think that it has taken the apex court long to do this.
Significantly, the three-member SC bench hearing a petition moved by a former president of the Balochistan High Court Association has sought detailed reports on missing persons in the province from the ISI and the MI. The key to the matter may lie here. Human rights monitoring groups have alleged that such agencies are behind the atrocities in Balochistan — where women lament the disappearance of brothers, sons or husbands, and mutilated, tortured bodies turn up regularly at street corners across the province. The key issue, of course, is that looking back through our history, it has been impossible to bring such agencies to account; from behind the shelter of their secret worlds they seem able to do as they please, without any questions being asked or any real pressure on them to justify their actions. It will be interesting to see if the SC bench headed by the chief justice can alter this reality and draw out some kind of confessions as to where these persons really are and who detains them illegally. According to the petition, some 5,000 persons are missing in Balochistan. This is no small number; things simply cannot continue in this fashion.
The IB and the government of Balochistan have already submitted reports, with the court already rejecting the one submitted by the IB. It is to be seen if the agencies controlled essentially by the military do the same. The SC has also summoned the attorney-general to the next hearing and asked why the federal or provincial governments are doing nothing. We certainly need to know and also establish a tradition of accountability for all agencies which operate in our country. Let us see if this can happen as this important case proceeds.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2012.