Supreme Court rejects government statement on Balochistan issues
By: Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: The government made an abortive move on Wednesday to impress upon the Supreme Court that the law and order situation and human rights violations in Balochistan had a political dimension more than administrative.
The assertion was made in a joint statement submitted after a meeting attended by Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddiq Akbar and Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Asif Yasin Malik, Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, Balochistan police chief and Frontier Corps Director General Maj-Gen Obaidullah Khattak in the office of Attorney General Irfan Qadir on the directives of the court.
The statement was read out by the attorney general before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry hearing a petition on the breakdown of law and order in Balochistan. It was filed by Balochistan High Court Bar Association’s former president Hadi Shakeel.
But the court rejected the statement on the grounds that it contained nothing new and decided to commence the hearing on a case to case basis from Thursday.
The statement said that if the court found it appropriate a commission could be constituted which would receive full assistance and cooperation from all agencies. Notwithstanding the difficulties and complexities of the Balochistan crisis, it was decided that a coordinated effort would be made by all departments concerned.
The statement sought two months to recover 78 missing persons who, according to it, were not in the custody of the FC, Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence or any other law-enforcement agency.
In view of the sensitivity of the issue, the court indicated to appoint five amici curiae (friends of the court) for assistance in the matter. They are: Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice-President Akhtar Hussain, Supreme Court Bar Association President Yasin Azad, Rasheed A. Razvi, Muneer A. Malik and Salman Akram Raja.
When the court asked about the visit by a delegation of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, it was informed that the team had come on an invitation of the foreign affairs ministry.
Referring to a report submitted in compliance with an earlier court order which sought to bring to the notice of the prime minister, Balochistan governor and chief minister and heads of agencies the prevailing situation in the province, the bench regretted that it appeared that no effective steps had been taken by any of the government functionaries to resolve the issue by adhering to the provisions of the Constitution.
The court noted that former chief minister of Balochistan Sardar Akhtar Jan had desired to join the present proceedings and asked its office to reissue notices to the respondents on a separate application filed by Talal Bugti, son of slain nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.
The court was informed that efforts were being made to recover members of the Hindu community kidnapped from Kalat.
But the court expressed its disappointment over kidnapping of a bus carrying pilgrims from Iran, killing of 10 Pashto-speaking people in Mastung, murder of Khan Qalandarani in Kalat and other similar incidents.
The court allowed the attorney general to represent the secretaries of interior and defence and asked him to again bring the situation in Balochistan to the notice of senior government officials.
At the outset of the proceedings, the bench and the AG exchanged some hot words.