ISLAMABAD: Apparently frustrated at unending strife and lawlessness in Balochistan, the Supreme Court bluntly asked the provincial government on Wednesday if it was really discharging its duties constitutionally.
The court then turned to Attorney General Irfan Qadir and asked if he would be happy if the court ordered the freezing of federal funds meant for Balochistan since both the federal and provincial governments had failed to curb lawlessness in the province.
A two-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja had taken up a petition of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association on the law and order situation, human rights violations, target killings, kidnappings for ransom and missing persons.
The stern observation was made by the chief justice against the backdrop of non-filing of fortnightly report by the interior ministry in compliance with an interim order issued by the court on Oct 12.
In the order issued after hearing the case at the Quetta registry, the court had asked the Balochistan chief secretary and Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddiq Akbar to submit fortnightly reports.
It had observed that except for deploying FC troops, the federal government had failed to protect the province from internal disturbances. Similarly, the provincial government also lost its constitutional authority to govern the province as violation of fundamental rights continued.
On Wednesday, the court noted that its earlier directions had not been complied with, although a report was submitted by the provincial chief secretary through Additional Advocate General Mohammad Azam Khan Khattak.
The court asked the AAG under which constitutional authority the provincial government was discharging its functions.
Mr Khattak said the provincial cabinet was in session and sought time till Friday so that the government could explain its constitutional position.
It all started when the attorney general informed the court that the federal government would submit its report by Monday.
The chief justice referred to Article 148(3) of the Constitution and said the federal government was not providing due assistance and what legal authority had been left with the Balochistan government to function.
“No constitutional authority has been left with the provincial government. Besides, the federal government has also failed,” the chief justice observed.
Article 148(3) emphasises the responsibility of the federal government to protect every province against external aggression and internal disturbances and to ensure that every province is governed in accordance with the Constitution.
“I believe the court has transgressed much beyond in this case,” the AG retorted and said the provincial government would soon file a petition seeking review of the Oct 12 interim order.
Mr Qadir claimed that the law and order situation was far better in Balochistan than in Punjab.
“It is your right to move a review petition, but till the time the petition is moved the court can ask for the interim report,” Justice Khawaja said, adding that even now people were being killed in Khuzdar, Quetta, etc.
“The level of interest in Balochistan is for everybody to see,” Justice Khawaja observed.
“Khuzdar has been shut for all practical intent and purposes,” the chief justice said.
The attorney general said courts and governments could not be closed and both had to go on. When the court observed that its orders were being taken lightly, Mr Qadir said the government always respected the court.
The bench regretted that the writ of both the federal and provincial governments had eroded and asked whether the AG would be happy if the court ordered the freezing of consolidated funds as long as the Constitution was not followed in letter and spirit.
The court ordered the AG to explain the steps taken by the federal government in terms of Article 148(3) after the interim order was issued. The case will be taken up on Nov 2.