QUETTA: A key directive by Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Wednesday that all police powers will be transferred for three months to the Frontier Corps (FC) in Balochistan was rejected by the provincial government in a drastic turn of events.
Malik’s announcement, which came at a press conference at the chief minister’s secretariat, would have given the paramilitary force the power to conduct raids, search houses and make arrests in order to restore the “writ of the government” in the province. He had also announced a ban on, and freezing the assets of, five Baloch organisations.
However, a spokesman of the Balochistan government later rejected all of Malik’s decisions announced at a news conference at the CM Secretariat on Wednesday.
An official handout categorically stated that the announcements made at the news conference by Rehman Malik were his personal views and the government of Balochistan had nothing to do with them.
Explaining the “actual” position, the government spokesman said that the chief minister had participated in a law and order meeting with the officials of the law enforcing agencies in which the interior minister was also present.
The meeting deliberated in detail the role of the Frontier Corps, Balochistan, and it was agreed that the FC had violated the FC Act by exceeding its powers and duties assigned to it. It was agreed to order the FC to remain within its legal framework in the future.
“If the provincial government would agree, the Frontier Corps could then be assigned the duties of policing in Balochistan,” the spokesman said. In this regard, the provincial government was to prepare a draft proposal to the federal government for approval, the spokesman added.
The spokesman stressed that the command and control of the FC is with the Interior Ministry and not with the CM. During the meeting, said the handout, it was said that if administrative powers of the federal government are transferred to the provincial government, it would then produce positive results.
The spokesman deplored the fact that the interior minister did not announce the decisions taken at the meeting, and instead publicised his personal views in his news conference.
Earlier, along with announcing the special powers for the FC, the interior minister also said that federal government has imposed a ban on five Baloch militant outfits and frozen their accounts, Rehman Malik said at a press conference in Quetta. “They (the banned groups) will not be allowed to undertake any activity, their offices will be closed and action will be taken against their office-bearers,” Malik said.
The banned outfits include the Baloch Liberation Army, Baloch Republican Army, Baloch Liberation United Front, Baloch Mussalah Diffa Tanzim and Balochistan Liberation Front. Malik told journalists that the decision was taken during a high-level meeting held at the chief minister’s secretariat on Wednesday, to review the law and order situation in Balochistan.
The interior minister also clarified that the government does not intend to launch a crackdown or a full-fledged military operation in Balochistan, like the one carried out in Swat. “The circumstances are different in Balochistan as compared to Swat or Waziristan where there was no writ of the government. In Balochistan a small percentage of Baloch miscreants are involved in terrorist activities,” he said. “It is not an operation. Targeted action will be taken against miscreants on the basis of real intelligence reports,” he said.
The minister said that powers had been given to the Balochistan chief minister to decide where to use the paramilitary force. The force will work under his directives for three months, he added.
“No steps will be taken without taking the provincial government on board,” he said. The federal government will also assist the provincial government in case it needs force, arms or help in gathering intelligence.
“Those who are talking about an independent Balochistan are teenagers and can be counted on fingertips. Foreign elements are giving them money to carry out target killing and bomb blasts,” he said.
“I have recorded my protest with Indian Foreign Minister and Afghan President Ahmad Karzai and also with America, about their alleged involvement in Balochistan,” he said, adding that he has informed the Afghan government that Brahamdagh Bugti is in Kabul and commanding insurgency in Balochistan. “I told the Americans that you people are watching the militants through satellite but we are watching them with our naked eyes,” he said.
The minister refused to provide details about the targeted action and said he cannot name districts. “When action will be taken, people and the media will know about it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Zafarullah Zehri said that no one will be allowed to carry out an operation in Balochistan. “The provincial government believes in dialogue rather than using brute force.” “Baloch Student Organisation is a political wing. Action will be taken against religious outfits not political parties. The media has projected the statement of Rehman Malik with a different angle and there have been misunderstandings,” he said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 9, 2010
Due to a an error, the Foreign Ministers name was incorrectly stated.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2010.