A RECENT interim order of a three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) has correctly ruled against the provincial PPP-led Balochistan government, stating that it had lost its constitutional authority to govern the province.
The SC order places the onus of responsibility squarely on the federal government.
The federal cabinet recently recognised the breakdown in law and order and asked the troika of the governor, chief minister and corps commander to steer the province out of its present mess through bi-monthly meetings and collective decisions of the civil and military bureaucracy.
We have often witnessed how the troika of president, prime minister and army chief comes together in a national crisis. The fact that the federal government is suggesting this to the provincial government is extremely significant.
It is now obvious that there is no writ of the state and the criminal justice system in Balochistan has broken down. It is no use recapitulating the follies of the last four years that have created this crisis of governance.
The jurisdiction of a resurgent and buoyant police force extending to the entire province in 2007 has been confined to five per cent within town areas. Vast areas around cities and towns have been left to the administration by the ragtag Levies whose loyalty is to the tribal chiefs rather than the state.
In the name of community policing, the tribal chiefs and power hungry bureaucrats joined hands to undermine the writ of the state and the rule of law.
The poor capacity of the Levies in 95 per cent of the province has resulted in the Frontier Corps filling the void and extending its mandate from a border security force to a military police force maintaining order and patrolling the vast network of highways in the province.
The FC is not trained for policing functions such as arrest, interrogation and investigations. Resultantly, it is resorting to illegal detentions and policing practices. The federal government claims that the FC takes orders from the provincial government.
While it takes money from the latter for internal security duties, it follows the chain of command of the armed forces.
The court knows that the real parties involved are not the provincial government and its hapless citizens but the armed forces and the Baloch sub-nationalists. The issue of disappearances will not be solved unless the security establishment follows the constitution.
In this context, the army chief’s statement that Balochistan’s issues must be solved within the constitutional framework is encouraging. Akhtar Mengal’s six-point charter was also addressed to the security establishment and it too is confined to constitutional remedies. So who is playing games?
If we are prepared to resolve the law and order situation in Balochistan here is a way forward.
First, the course suggested by the federal cabinet for the governor, chief minister and corps commander to take collective responsibility for improving law and order must be given a real chance. The chief secretary, IG Police, IG FC, home secretary, DG Levies, and the senior-most representatives of the intelligence agencies should assist the troika implement decisions. This way the federal and provincial governments and the security establishment will be fulfilling their collective responsibility.
Second, the issue of missing persons and forced disappearances must be resolved. No non-state actors or their patrons should be allowed to kill and dump the bodies of Baloch dissidents or militants. This tit-for-tat gang warfare has to stop.
The SC has asked the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of the Balochistan police to take cognisance of all cases of missing persons and those killed and dumped. The issue will not be resolved by registering cases or recording FIRs.
Joint interrogation teams must be constituted by the home department for complete investigations by co-opting representatives of FC, ISI, Intelligence Bureau and Special Branch. The CID head will file cases in the anti-terrorism courts.
This whole exercise will become meaningless if the security establishment remains in denial mode and refuses to cooperate with police or to implement SC orders.
Third, all non-customs paid vehicles plying on permits (rahdari) issued by various security and intelligence agencies must be confiscated by the customs department and handed over to the law-enforcement agencies (superdari) for maintenance of order on the province’s highways.
Similarly, weapons carried by the ‘friends’ of the agencies must be confiscated and their credentials verified by the Special Branch. Too many criminals have obtained these informal licences to commit crime.
Fourth, police jurisdiction should be gradually increased so that inadequacy and incapacity of the Levies is addressed. The Balochistan Constabulary (a force of about 10,000 trained policemen) should be deployed on highways and man security pickets in major cities and towns of the province.
Reliance on FC should gradually be decreased so that they can focus on their real mandate of border control. FC, being a civil armed force, must be used in aid of civilian police and Levies for maintenance of order or to carry out raids against fugitives.
Fifth, CID, Crimes Branch, Special Branch and the District Quetta Police should focus all their energies in arresting members of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi who have formed deadly gangs and developed a nexus with the TTP in targeted sectarian killings in and around Quetta.
All state agencies must coordinate and apprehend these sectarian terrorists. The assistance of CID Punjab must be obtained in this regard.
Finally, the state has a crisis of credibility that must be addressed. Writ of the state should be established through the rule of law. SC directions must be followed in letter and spirit. Governance must be improved. Justice should be seen to be done.
The state should not abandon the high moral ground as violence begets violence. It is time to show maturity and magnanimity and address the concerns of the Baloch people.
The writer is former IG of Balochistan Police.