Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Daily Times Editorial June 13, 2012
Supreme Court on Frontier Corps IG Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, while hearing the missing persons’ case, expressed extreme annoyance at the Inspector General (IG) of the Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Obaidullah Khan Khattak for holding a press conference on the issue, contrary to the court’s orders. The CJP went so far as to say that it was not the business of people in uniform to hold press conferences. Further, the CJP raised the startling possibility that the court could pass a coercive order under Article 190 to summon COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to explain the conduct of the FC IG and inform the court whether what was going on was the way to run the country. Reflecting on the state of affairs in Balochistan, the CJP said it was an issue that could not be ignored as the province was the most important part of the country. Conditions in the province, instead of improving, were getting worse by the day, the CJP argued. As proof of this, the CJP referred to the tragedy that those people missing were in danger of their lives if their relatives or others approached the court for redress. As an example, the CJP pointed to the case of three missing persons who the court ordered should be recovered, but they were only ‘recovered’ when their dead bodies were dumped. MPA Sadiq Umrani was a witness to the butchering of two people. Around 20 people have been killed in the last 2-3 days, another member of the bench, Justice Jawwad Khwaja, revealed, while 835 incidents had occurred but no one was caught. The claim in the IG FC’s press conference that all that was wrong in Balochistan was the handiwork of foreign agencies evoked the retort from the CJP that in that case, what were our agencies doing. This old, tattered ‘foreign hand’ refrain was also taken up the other day by Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, the head of the missing persons commission. This concerted and obvious attempt to whitewash the doings of the FC and intelligence agencies in disappearing people whose tortured bodies are then dumped all over the province has been refuted by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which said it had always provided full and verified details of each case of missing persons, a fact reflected by the recovery of those so named. In our history the ‘foreign hand’ excuse has always been used to deny the ground realities and real responsibility for wrongdoing. In answer to the FC’s counsel’s assertion that the FC was being maligned and ‘victimised’, the CJP referred to the video presented in the court showing FC personnel abducting three people. Why, the CJP, asked, should the chief of the FC not be held responsible for such happenings? The counsel then suggested the Supreme Court (SC) should order the withdrawal of the FC from Balochistan, to which the CJP retorted that this was the work of a magistrate, not the apex court. The CJP may be embattled at present because of unrelated causes, but his and the SC’s role in the missing persons case is admirable. Unfortunately, the court is up against the arrogance of ‘untouchable’ impunity that the security and intelligence agencies have enjoyed throughout our history. From the IG FC downwards (and upwards), these agencies do not consider themselves answerable or accountable to anyone or anything. The FC’s counsel can go so far as to say the constitution either does not exist or at least is not being implemented in the country. That is precisely the responsibility of the superior judiciary to ensure the rule of law prevails. As the CJP said in his remarks during he hearing, no one has the right to kill even criminals, let alone suspects whose crime, if any, is yet to be established through due process. The lawlessness with which Balochistan is afflicted at the hands of the FC and sister agencies is a total subversion of the law and constitution. Hence the SC is to be supported in its efforts to right these obvious and brutal wrongs before the shortsighted repressive policies of the deep state produce a cataclysm that threatens the very existence of the country.