Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Daily Times editorial May 30, 2012

Somnolent government wakes up In a TV interview, Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani admitted that the number of missing persons in Balochistan is going up. Further, a high level meeting called by the PM to discuss the issue on Tuesday would include COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, heads of law enforcement agencies, federal and provincial officials concerned. Some media reports ascribe this sudden ‘waking up’ to the issue of an otherwise somnolent government to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry’s startling remarks during the last hearing of the missing persons case at the Quetta Registry of the Supreme Court (SC) that if the PM is not interested in tackling the serious problem, the constitutional provisions will kick in, including the possibility of the imposition of an emergency. Although the government sources publicly responded mutedly by pointing out that the imposition of an emergency is the sole prerogative of the executive and the judiciary has no powers in this regard, it seems nevertheless to have jolted the PM and the powers that be to at least be seen to be addressing the problem seriously. What may or may not come out of this high powered meeting remains to be seen. The basic reason is that when the COAS is consulted on a problem for which his military and its various arms are fairly and squarely blamed, unless the military changes its unilateral policy of ‘kill and dump’ in the province, what hope is there that a powerless (in this regard) federal and provincial Balochistan government can make a difference? Let us not forget the context in which the Chief Justice delivered his remarks. It was a clear sign of the frustration of the apex court with the ground situation in which no civilian authority seemed able to help the court to produce the missing persons. As if to underline the contentions above, on the very day of the PM’s interview, three missing persons bodies, tortured, strangled and stuffed in gunny bags were recovered from Quetta (four more were found elsewhere in the province). Media reports speculate that these were the same three men whose relatives had appeared before the SC to record their statements about the abduction of the three from Quetta last month. Police officials had presented a video of the abduction incident showing people dressed in Frontier Corps (FC) uniforms bundling the men away. The DG FC however, blatantly denied to the court that these were his personnel, claiming they were impostors, without a shred of evidence to back up his claim. Now the dumped bodies of the same three missing persons are meant to send a familiar message to the relatives of the rest of the hundreds if not thousands of missing persons: shut up or be prepared to receive the dead bodies of your missing relatives. That being the reality, what good will the so-called high powered meeting do, when the military seems bent upon continuing with its short-sighted, repressive actions?

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