Court takes FC to task over disappearances
ISLAMABAD, June 1: The Supreme Court assailed the Frontier Corps (FC) on Friday for its perceived role in the growing cases of disappearances in Balochistan and described the recent killing of three people whose whereabouts were being sought by the court as a chilling reminder to it, the federal government and the state.
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that had taken up the law and order situation in the province on a petition filed by Hadi Shakeel, a former president of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association, however, resolved to continue to pursue the matter regardless of the problems faced by it.
On May 28, three missing people (Mohammad Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mehran Baloch) were found dead. Mehran Baloch was allegedly picked up by the FC personnel on April 12 near a five-star hotel in Quetta.
The bodies of the three men were found on the eve of a high-level meeting on Balochistan presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and attended by Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Balochistan’s Advocate General Amanullah Kinrani told the court that evidence was available to establish that FC personnel had picked up the three men and named two traffic police officers as witnesses.
“Whenever directions are issued and law-enforcement agencies are asked to recover the missing persons, dead bodies appear in response,” the chief justice remarked while dictating an order after the day’s hearing.
“The entire province is on fire but those at the helm of affairs seem to be insensitive and nobody is showing any interest in arresting the situation,” the court said, adding that security agencies and people of the province appeared to be pitted against each other.
“We are persuaded to believe that perhaps no immediate measures are being followed for the recovery of the missing persons,” the court noted.
The court ordered the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Khushnood Akhtar Lashari, to hold a meeting with Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi and Interior Secretary Khwaja Siddiq Akbar (who nominally controls the law-enforcement agencies) to come up with a clear statement about the rising number of incidents involving disappearances, kidnapping for ransom and recovery of dead bodies in the province.
If such a statement was not issued by July 4, the court would be left with no option but to issue an appropriate order, said the court.
The chief justice said the meeting to be convened by Mr Lashari should take into account the statements given by provincial Ministers Sadiq Umrani and Zafarullah Zehri who had accused security agencies of killing people and also talked about the involvement of provincial ministers in kidnapping for ransom.
The court was not at all happy to learn that the federal interior secretary and Balochistan’s inspector general and home secretary had no idea about what actions were being taken to control the situation because they usually stayed in the federal capital.
The court was also annoyed over the absence of Attorney General Irfan Qadir and asked Mr Lashari to engage a proper counsel, instead of banking on the AG office, which it said was not assisting the court properly in the matter.
Mr Lashari assured the court that he would inform the prime minister about the role of the ISI and MI in Balochistan and persuade the chief executive to initiate a dialogue with angry Baloch leaders. He said that only policy matters were discussed during the recent high-level meeting on Balochistan.
The chief justice regretted that provincial police were so weak and helpless that they could not hope to control the situation without the assistance of the FC.
The court was angry that no action had been taken to rein in the FC in the past nine months.
The apex court decided to show restraint when Advocate Raza Kazim, who was representing four cellular companies in a related case, assailed what he characterised as attempts to frustrate the judiciary and urged it to issue notices under treason charges against the quarters concerned.
The court should consider whether the instant matter was a simple case of contempt because of continued defiance or had become a question of subversion of the Constitution under its Article 6, he argued.
When Advocate Raja Mohammad Irshad, who was representing the FC, asked the court to allow the force to conduct a proper investigation in the case the judges replied in the negative. They said that Mr Irshad should tell the FC authorities that the court would not allow the status quo to continue.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani, who attended the proceedings, told journalists outside the courtroom that “small things happened here and there but generally things were fine” and that he did not want to malign his province.
He said the FC never took orders from him and acted only when it was called in by the provincial government.
When he was asked by a journalist why did he prefer to stay in Islamabad, instead of Quetta, Mr Raisani posed a counter-question: “Who are you to ask?”