Saturday, October 13, 2012
Daily Times Editorial Oct 14, 2012
End of the road for Raisani? Two developments indicate that the chickens are coming home to roost for the Aslam Raisani-led Balochistan government. First, the Supreme Court (SC) three-member bench hearing the law and order case regarding the province has issued an interim order that points the finger of accusation for the situation on the provincial government, while also castigating the federal government for its inaction. The order says in so many words that the Balochistan government has failed to maintain law and order in the province while the federal government too, except for deploying the Frontier Corps (FC), has not taken any effective measures to improve things. On the FC the SC has again reiterated its finding that there is evidence of its involvement (along with secret agencies such as ISI and MI) in enforced disappearances, many of which end up with tortured dead bodies being dumped all over the province. On the one hand the SC shows its displeasure at the police’s investigations into such cases, arguing that the writ of the police is conspicuous by its absence, while on the other hand, despairing of any meaningful response from other agencies, the court has ordered investigation of all cases of enforced disappearances and killings to be handled by the CID. There was a discussion in court during the hearing whether the CID was authorised to operate in both A and B areas of the province. Balochistan’s policing and law and order functions are exercised by the police and normal judicial system in the A areas, comprising cities and relatively settled regions, and by the locally recruited Levies in the B areas. There have been accusations that the Levies are undisciplined and under the influence of the local tribal chiefs, but this objection misses the point. The Levies were set up precisely by the British as a tribal law enforcement agency in areas where the British, in recognition of necessity, had conceded autonomy to the tribal regions. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, himself a resident of Quetta, explained that modernising and disciplining the Levies was a long term task, implying that for the foreseeable future, there was no other option in the B areas except to rely on the Levies. The court underlined the need to run the affairs of the province according to the constitution and ensuring the safety and lives of citizens from “criminal aggression” by the FC and secret agencies. While the court’s frustration at the non-implementation of its repeated orders to improve law and order in the province was floating on the surface, the bench’s order acknowledged that despite the authorities and intelligence agencies not denying deterioration in the situation, it appeared that the law enforcement agencies were helpless (in the face of things being run by the military, its paramilitary arm the FC, and the ISI and MI). The court held that the federal government could not be oblivious of the situation but had failed to discharge its duty under Article 148(3) of the constitution. The court was of the view that the situation was worsening despite a democratically elected government being in place, which had forfeited the right to continue in office. Meantime the National Assembly (NA) passed an opposition resolution demanding the setting up of (another!) all-parties commission to bring the estranged and exiled Baloch leadership into the mainstream. This may have raised the spirits of the MNAs, sunk in gloom over the Malala incident, but what another, even all-parties, commission can do remains open to question. The elephant in the room that both the SC order and the NA resolution fail to explicitly recognise is the actual ground situation in Balochistan. Castigating the provincial or federal governments for not discharging their constitutional duties is valid up to a point, but it must not be forgotten that both are helpless in the face of the army running things in the province. So long as that issue is not addressed, even the possible dissolution of the Balochistan Assembly and the demise of the Raisani (non-) government will make little difference.