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CJ on Balochistan

May 24, 2012

THE chief justice’s remarks about the possible imposition of emergency in Balochistan must be seen as reflective of his understandable frustration over the situation in the country’s largest province. Hearing on Wednesday a petition filed by the Balochistan Bar Association, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry came down hard on the provincial government and regretted that state officials had not attended the hearings in the Quetta registry. His ire was justified, given the back seat the provincial government has chosen to take while Balochistan burns. The scene in the insurgency-plagued province is characterised by disappearances and the dumping of bodies. Due process has almost ceased to exist, for it is the security agencies which have occupied centre stage to solve by violence what basically is a political problem. Affected families seldom blame the political government for the disappearances and murders, and invariably hold the Frontier Corps, Military Intelligence and ISI responsible for what is a gross violation of human rights. Coming from Balochistan himself, the chief justice obviously feels strongly about the goings-on and seems keen to ensure the rule of law but is shocked by the non-appearance in his court of key federal and provincial officials.

The truth is: the intelligence agencies are waging a war of their own on insurgents or suspected insurgents and eliminating them. A law unto themselves, the agencies do not think that their job is to take the suspects to court and leave it to the judges to decide. The issue is of direct import to the evolution of democracy in Pakistan, for reining in the agencies is a national problem, and Justice Chaudhry knows this more than anyone else. As he remarked the other day, checking the disappearances and recovering the ‘disappeared’ would solve 60 per cent of Balochistan’s problem. While this may be a simplification, the chief justice’s observations point to the gravity of the situation arising from the impunity with which the security agencies operate, especially in Balochistan’s tribal and semi-tribal areas. The emergency he spoke of would serve to weaken the rule of law and give more powers to the spy agencies.