The overall law and order situation throughout Pakistan remains dismal, but what we have in Balochistan presents the grim spectacle of a killing field. Targeted killings, ethnic and sectarian murders, kidnappings for ransom, mid-night raids by agencies, body-bags that show up every other day - you have it all as a daily affair. That on a single day a pilgrims' bus is ambushed and its passengers ruthlessly mowed down in a hail of bullets, a workplace is destroyed by remote-control bombing, a police vehicle is fired upon and a teacher is kidnapped - it's very much expected.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
And there is no let-up to this tragic theatre. Left to the provincial law enforcement, it appears the country's territorially largest and strategically most sensitive province has been left at the mercy of contract killers. So, given the provincial authorities' scandalous failure in rescuing the province from the clutches of lawbreakers anytime soon the people have turned to the higher judiciary for some kind of deliverance from the lingering apocalypse. Therefore, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court's Quetta registry was once again the venue of hearing by a three-member Bench, headed by Chief Justice of a petition on the law and order situation and human rights violations.
What little the concerned officials revealed to the court as their performance to redeem the situation clearly suggests that the various departments tasked to improve the law and order situation are not on the same page. Moreover, they have qualitatively different and even conflicting perspectives on the challenge they are supposed to collectively confront. The court is obviously fed up with their repeated and deliberate failure to come up with truth in the matter. No wonder then the Chief Justice has directed the Balochistan home department and law enforcement agencies to recover and produce before the court all missing persons in a week.
The ongoing turmoil in Balochistan has three clear facets. One, given the past record, people often went missing consequent to the 'manoeuvres' conducted by the Frontier Corps (FC) in the name of combating growing insurgency in Balochistan. When confronted with question about the whereabouts of the missing persons, the FC would say they were not with it; or that they might have joined some 'farrari' camp. The court is of the view that if any person is wanted by the agency he should be arrested and produced before the court so that he is not accounted among the missing. Two; it's beyond any doubt now that a kind of sectarian duel is being enacted by some powers, that may be based outside Pakistan, through their proxies in Balochistan. The court wanted to know why the provincial authorities haven't succeeded so far in tracing out the hideouts of banned militant and sectarian organisations and their sources of fundraising. Three; the perennially weak governance in Balochistan has worked in favour of law-breaking elements - be they in the form of hardened criminals or hired hoodlums or ruling elite's patronized thugs. Consider, even ministers are directly involved in crimes like kidnapping for ransom. How much more pathetic the law and order of a place can be?
But that said, the government cannot absolve itself of its responsibilities and obligations towards people's lives and their property. That the law and order situation in Balochistan never received due attention of the provincial government and therefore things have now come to such a sorry pass. The criminals are on the loose. And how dangerous they are, the home secretary's disclosure that in June alone, 101 persons lost their lives in Quetta at the hands of target killers in the province and that three terrorists killed 24 religious scholars in the province makes a dreadful reading. We wouldn't like to be profoundly pessimistic about the performance of provincial government and paramilitary forces deployed to bring the situation under control, but we do think they haven't risen to the task yet. Not only is the FC required to come clean on its suspected role which has earned it the rebuke of being a kidnapper, the provincial police and home department are needed to render full co-operation to the apex court. Will they? It would be known by the end of the week. During this period, they are required to produce all the missing persons before the court of law in accordance with apex court's July 11, 2012 orders.