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Balochistan official facing cabinet’s pressure, SC told

December 20, 2012

Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court heard on Thursday allegations that Chief Secretary of Balochistan Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad was being pressurised by the provincial administration to ignore illegal practices which could lead to a breakdown of law and order in the strife-torn province.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard a petition of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association (BHCBA) highlighting the rising incidents of terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and enforced disappearance.

“The entire Balochistan cabinet has opened up a front against him and if anything happens to the chief secretary, it will be the people of Balochistan who will suffer,” said BHCBA president Malik Zahoor Shahwani and vice-president Sajjid Tareen.

Challenging the claims of the provincial government that law and order had improved, the bar members said that sectarian killings, instances of missing persons and kidnappings for ransom were going unchecked.

“We have no love lost for any person,” the chief justice observed. He said the purpose of retaining the officer concerned in Balochistan was that he was upright, uncompromising and implemented the directions of the apex court in letter and spirit in the province.

“You must be grateful for his services; you have to make a categorical statement that no adverse action will come to him,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed, a member of the bench, said while addressing Shahid Hamid who is representing the provincial administration.

Mr Hamid informed the court that he had personally talked to Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani who at no time mentioned any complaint concerning the chief secretary. “The chief minister is happy with his (chief secretary’s) work,” he said, adding that he would again inquire if there was any complaint against him.

The counsel recalled that he had held four meetings with senior members of the Balochistan Assembly and none voiced a complaint against the chief secretary.

“While eroding the authority of the chief secretary, who is supervising in very difficult times, no incident of sectarian killing or case of missing persons was reported,” Mr Hamid said, adding that criticism would not help.

The chief secretary informed the court that in compliance with its earlier orders, 40 officers from the Police Services of Pakistan (PSP) and 15 men from the District Management Group (DMG) had been sent to Balochistan to maintain law and order.

The chief justice expressed concern over lack of good governance and pressure on the police force to release suspects and said that even provincial ministers were known to visit police stations to exert pressure. The alleged sale of 800 jobs by the provincial chairman of the Public Service Commission also came under discussion. Mr Hamid admitted that the entire episode was shameful and hinted that action might be taken against the chairman.

“We are in a vicious circle,” Justice Gulzar said.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed regretted that crime and corruption had become the way of life. “It has become ideology of the state,” he said.

“We were expecting that the provincial government would act in protecting the life, which is its constitutional duty,” the bench said after declaring reports of the provincial government unsatisfactory.

The court also deplored that not a single criminal involved in sectarian killings had been arrested and that most of the victims of kidnappings had been released only after paying hefty ransom amounts. Two months had passed since an interim order was issued on October 15, but fundamental rights and protection to the life and property of citizens were not being upheld, the court regretted.

It also noted that despite calling off strike, doctors in the province had not been reinstated and their salary had not been paid.

The provincial government assured the court that the matter would be addressed by Friday.