ISLAMABAD, July 31: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry observed on Tuesday that the worsening law and order in Balochistan could be arrested in a week if the Frontier Corps (FC) so desired.

“It’s my belief that the situation can be cooled down and they (FC) can solve the problem in seven days,” said the chief justice who heads a Supreme Court bench hearing a petition on the law and order situation and human rights violations in the province. Otherwise, he cautioned, the situation might get out of hand.

The chief justice made the observation when Advocate Raja Mohammad Irshad, representing FC Director General Maj-Gen Obaidullah Khattak, said that although the FC was exercising restraint, there was a feeling that the agenda of “our enemies are being promoted”.

“Who is promoting the agenda, you people are,” the chief justice retorted and asked the FC chief to realise the situation that was developing.

“We want to avoid a situation like Lahore where a case has been registered against the ISI DG and the MI (Military Intelligence); that is why we are emphasising upon the FC to avoid getting the situation going out of hand,” the chief justice said.

“It is high time when you should come forward and take the responsibility,” the chief justice said while pointing to the FC DG, adding that questions were being raised about sovereignty and security of the country.

“It’s time when the hearts and minds of the people living in the neglected province should be won,” the court said.

The FC chief assured the court that each and every soldier and resources would be utilised to improve the situation in Balochistan. But he regretted that the FC was covering less than five per cent of the area in the province with tied hands to respond to the incidents.

A composite statement was submitted on behalf of the federal as well as Balochistan governments assuring the court that steps would be taken to enforce Article 9 (security of life and property) of the Constitution in the province. A reluctant FC chief was asked to sign the document which he did.

Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad informed the court that the chief secretaries of four provinces had reached an understanding under which five top probationers from the District Management Group (DMG) would be sent to Balochistan every year for initial training.

Newly-promoted grade 18-19 officers will also be sent to the province. Likewise, 10 per cent officers from the Police Services of Pakistan (PSP) would be inducted in Balochistan every year, he said, adding that the policy would soon be finalised.

The chief secretary assured the court that he would visit Dera Bugti, Sui and adjoining areas after Eid and submit a report on the situation.

He said efforts were being made to restore peace in the areas. Advocate General of Balochistan Amanullah Kinrani informed the court that he was coming straight from a sub-committee meeting of the cabinet headed by Defence Minister Naveed Qamar and attended by ministers for interior, law and information. He said the meeting had decided to hold day-to-day sessions till the time all issues were resolved. The committee would soon submit its recommendations to the prime minister.

“It is heartening that all of us are driving towards the same objectives,” Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja said, adding that earlier “we were flogging a dead horse”.

“It is the duty of the state through respective governments to enforce and adhere to the constitutional provisions in strict sense,” an order dictated by the bench said, adding that denying fundamental rights under Article 9 amounted to violation of the Constitution.

The order said: “After hearing this petition, prima facie we concluded that it was necessary to fix responsibility on the federal as well as the provincial governments for the enforcement of the Constitution in Balochistan where law and order is deteriorating day by day.

“Enforced disappearances, target killings, kidnapping for ransom and sectarian related killings have become order of the day,” the order said, adding that the court wanted to dispose of the matter but decided to seek governments’ commitment in writing.

After seeing the written assurances, the court said, it was of the opinion that the solemn commitments made by the governments to improve law and order in Balochistan would be fulfilled.

“It is the duty of the state to look after the citizens in accordance with the Constitution and the law without making any distinction among them. The culprits involved in killing, kidnapping or detaining or sectarian killings are required to be dealt with strictly,” the order said.

But despite deployment of law-enforcement agencies, culprits responsible for creating law and order had not been arrested, might be for expediencies including political, the court said.

It asked the provincial police and management officers to submit to the court’s registrar weekly reports about the situation in Balochistan.

Before adjourning the hearing till September 3 in Quetta, the court suggested to the provincial government to initiate dialogue with local political leaders.

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