THE Supreme Court goes to Quetta, it goes to Karachi, it summons officials to the court headquarters in Islamabad, all the time trying to get the other institutions of the state to do more to stabilise trouble spots and protect the public. Controversial as the attempts may be in some quarters, the court’s moves have definitely helped put on the national agenda issues that otherwise languished at the margins: for instance, a slow-burn insurgency in Balochistan and the state’s brutal response, and unending violence in parts of Karachi even as the main political players in the city are in government together. But the longer the court’s intervention continues, the more the limitations of the judiciary are becoming apparent. True, the judiciary was never really designed for interventions on the security front but the main problem appears to lie elsewhere: a numbing reluctance by the state — the political government, the security establishment and the security apparatus — to do its job, that is, effectively counter security threats and to keep the public as safe and secure as reasonably possible.
There is no easy comparison between events in Karachi and Balochistan, as indeed there is no direct comparison with the threat posed by militancy in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Counterterrorism measures are different from a counterinsurgency, and an Islamist insurgency in the northwest of the country has very different drivers to a separatist insurgency in the southwest. But as months have become years and the years threaten to become a decade, policy drift continues to bedevil Pakistan’s attempts to find internal stability. Perhaps most worrying is the ad hoc approach to the disparate problems. When violence flares in one place, urgent meetings are held between political principals to tamp down the problem. When the killings and attacks on various targets go up in another part of the country, suspects are temporarily rounded up and then after a short while the same cycle of violence and counter-violence begins again. Missing throughout is a coherent, long-term policy.
In Balochistan, without a political leadership that is tenacious about reconciliation between the warring separatists and the security establishment, swathes of the province will effectively remain cut off from the rest of Pakistan. In many parts of urban Pakistan, the coordination between the various arms of the security apparatus is still very unsatisfactory, the judicial framework is still too inadequate to deal with terrorism and militancy and a meaningful counter-extremism strategy has yet to be discussed. So, perhaps a rethink in strategy is needed by the superior judiciary and the various arms of the state it is trying to cajole into behaving more responsibly.