ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: The performance of the federal government and that of premier intelligence agencies, both civil and military, came under intense scrutiny in the Supreme Court which took up the Quetta massacre case on Tuesday.
“Why responsibility should not be fixed on Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf like it was done against Chief Minister Aslam Raisani when a similar incident happened in January,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who heads a three-judge bench which held three proceedings after intervals on a suo motu notice of unabated killings of the Shia Hazara community.
The court observed that it was the foremost duty of the state to protect the life and property of its citizen.
The gruesome killings triggered countrywide strikes, protests and demonstrations paralysing the civic life as markets, business centres and schools were closed.
Such incidents taking place in the presence of the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force but recently delegated with police powers after the imposition of governor’s rule, was beyond comprehension, the court regretted. But it offered that cases would be decided by trial courts concerned in three days if real culprits were apprehended.
The court framed a set of questions and asked Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddiq Akbar and Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Yasin Malik to get their answers from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Field Investigation Unit (FIU), FIA’s Anti-Terrorist Wing, Special Branch, Crimes Branch and Crime Investigation Department (CID).
“Prima facie, either the intelligence agencies are negligent in performing their duties or they do not share intelligence with police and law-enforcement agencies,” the court observed.
The court’s questionnaire asks who are responsible for the Quetta carnage; why the intelligence agencies have failed to discharge their responsibilities; what are the circumstances preventing the agencies from proceeding against the culprits involved in the dreadful killings because of which life has been paralysed throughout the country; and why the federal as well as provincial governments have not taken necessary and effective normalisation measures throughout the country, particularly in Quetta.
The two secretaries are also required to inform the court at the next hearing on Wednesday about measures taken for arresting the criminals.
The secretary interior informed the court that the Inspector General of Balochistan had been replaced by Mushtaq Sukhera from Punjab, the IB director transferred and IB Quetta’s deputy director suspended.
But the court observed that these measures were not sufficient for identifying and locating the criminals who were carrying out terrorist activities one after the other in a daring manner.
Agha Nasir Ali Shah, a PPP member parliament belonging to the Hazara community who is on a hunger strike over the Quetta massacre, came to attend the proceedings, along with Dr Safdar Abbasi, Ms Naheed Khan, PML-N MNA Capt (retd) Safdar, Senator Rafiq Rajwana and Begum Atiya Inayat.
He criticised his party colleagues for not sympathising with him or offering him to accompany a broad-based parliamentary delegation which went to Quetta to hold talks with leaders of the Hazara community for ending the sit-in staged by the victims’ families.
What surprised the court most was the unchecked entry of a water tanker carrying 800-1000kg of explosives to the Hazara Town in Quetta. Over 87 innocent citizens lost their lives and 200 suffered injuries when the explosives went off.
The court asked why the intelligence agencies had failed to gather prior information about the incident and why no combing of the troubled area had been done soon after the proclamation of governor’s rule to arrest the culprits without any discrimination. The court was surprised that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a proscribed outfit, had claimed responsibility for the Quetta carnage, but no action had been taken against it.
By now tribal elders should have been approached by the authorities to seek their assistance in arresting the culprits since criminals usually took refuge in small areas after carrying out terrorist activities, it said.
The court directed that its orders be dispatched to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and the Balochistan governor so that they might submit reports through Attorney General Irfan Qadir.