Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Oct 10, 2012

Chief Justice’s warning The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) pursuit of the missing persons and the volatile law and order situation in Balochistan has become a never-ending tale. At the Quetta Registry of the SC, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on Monday had much cause for frustration and umbrage. The CJP in his remarks castigated the government for lack of seriousness in tackling the problem despite repeated orders by the court. Apart from the continuing issue of missing persons, a disturbing trend has been in evidence since the SC took up the case. Persons no longer go missing; instead, their dead bodies keep turning up. Whoever is behind it seems to have decided that since the apex court is seized of the issue of missing persons, and has pointed the finger at the Frontier Corps (FC) in no uncertain terms as being involved on the basis of evidence in every second or third incident of the disappeared, it is better to rid this earth of the person/s in question to avoid any further embarrassing questions or disclosures in court. The CJP went on to question what the police and law enforcement agencies were doing when sessions judges, police officers and advocates were now being targeted and killed but not a single perpetrator had been arrested. The 30 police officers ordered by the court to be deployed in the troubled areas of the province have yet to be appointed DPOs, despite the court’s earlier and current orders. The crackdown against unregistered (Kabuli in the local usage) vehicles, arms and death squads ordered by the court has also not been implemented, the CJP observed. The FC was ordered yet again to recover and present the missing persons (some reports say within three days). The Deputy Attorney General and the authorities tried to portray the situation in Dera Bugti and the rest of the province as improving in terms of law and order, but were snubbed by the court with the observation that this was hardly a credible statement given that people were being killed virtually every day and the displaced persons and Nawab Bugti’s family could still not return to their homes. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain wanted a report on whether things had improved after the delegation of police powers to the FC. Finally, after listening to the usual evasions and excuses of the officials appearing in court, the CJP’s patience ran out. He said the court wanted democracy to continue and was therefore exercising restraint, but its duty lay in ensuring the constitution was adhered to, no matter what. If the situation was not seriously addressed by the government, the CJP was compelled to say, not only the provincial government but other governments too would have to go on the grounds that the affairs of state were not being run in accordance with the constitution. The CJP paused there to reiterate that the court should not be forced to pass an order that would represent the end of the line for the incumbents. The SC’s tilting against powerful sections of the deep state, cocooned in a culture of immunity for as long as one can remember, and unmindful even of the apex court’s strictures, is showing just how deeply entrenched the lawbreaking habits of the security agencies really are. They have no fear of accountability or retribution, not even at the hands of the SC. It goes without saying that the CJP’s warning is not to be taken lightly. However, the tragedy is that the axe, if it falls at all, will fall on the necks of the helpless and hapless civilian elected governments whereas the deep state will still get away scot-free. This is the crux of the dilemma. Even were erring governments to be dismissed, what guarantee is there that the security agencies would not carry on merrily on their destructive path? If even the SC cannot prevail on them to see sense, what hope is there from any other quarter?

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