If there was some confusion regarding the fate of the current Balochistan government, the apex court’s remarks on Wednesday provided a little more clarity.
The Supreme Court questioned the constitutional status of the Balochistan government given that the court had observed in its interim order that it had lost the authority to govern the province.
Under what constitutional authority is the provincial government discharging its functions, the court asked during Wednesday’s hearing of the law and order situation and human rights violations in Balochistan.
Heading a two-judge bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry sought a report from the federal government on the steps it had taken to implement the court’s October 12 order. The order stated that the Balochistan government had failed to maintain the law and order situation, and directed the federal government to stop being a silent spectator and adopt appropriate measures to protect the lives and properties of citizens.
The court observed on Wednesday that the provincial government was violating the Constitution despite its October 12 order in the case. The chief justice asked how the government of Balochistan was still spending funds from the national exchequer despite the court’s interim order.
The court’s persistent questioning, however, led to an exchange of words between Attorney-General Irfan Qadir and the bench.
Expressing displeasure at the federal government’s lack of interest in the matter, the court stated that they had not received a fortnightly report regarding the law and order situation in the province from the interior secretary as directed in the order.
Furthermore, the court added, the federal government had failed as it was not providing assistance as per Article 148 (3) of the Constitution, which states that the federal government can intervene to assist authorities.
Qadir, however, argued that court had transgressed its limit while passing the interim order, adding that the government was considering filing a review petition against it. He further said that the court only remained concerned about Balochistan even though the crime ratio in Punjab was higher.
In response, Chief Justice Chaudhry reminded the attorney-general that they were currently hearing the Balochistan case, and, if he felt strongly enough about Punjab, he could bring up a case on it in court.
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja further told Qadir that while a review petition was his constitutional right and they would entertain it whenever it would be filed, his focus right now should be on answering the court’s questions.
The court advised the attorney-general that it would be better for the federal government to file a statement in compliance of the court’s order, adding that the court could also pass another order restraining both governments from utilising the consolidated funds.
On the court’s orders, Balochistan Additional Advocate-General Azam Khattak read out the interim order’s para 48: “Unfortunately, in the instant case, the federal government, except deploying FC troops, has also failed to protect Province of Balochistan from internal disturbances. Similarly, as far as Provincial Government of Balochistan is concerned it had lost its constitutional authority to govern the province because of violation of fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan.”
Qadir argued that the government could not be dissolved like this, to which Justice Jawwad S Khawaja replied that the attorney-general had no authority on the matter, and the federal government should give an explanation in this regard.
The hearing was adjourned till November 2.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2012.