In the right direction

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry

The tragedy of the Frontier Corps (FC) Inspector General (IG) Major General Obaidullah Khan Khattak’s obtuse explanation in front of a three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry hearing the Balochistan missing persons case could only have been offset by an equally rational response put forward by the court, as witnessed on Monday.

To say that hundreds, if not thousands of Baloch are, directly or indirectly, victims of some form of mass hallucination is not exactly an attitude that favours either public service or public appreciation. It is an attitude that feeds directly into greater resentment and fear on both sides rather than contribute to building new bridges. The SC bench has been hearing this serious and sensitive case since the beginning of 2011. It deserves appreciation for finally making the IG of the FC appear before it to answer for what his force has been doing in Balochistan for long years with impunity and particularly in this petition filed recently with regard to the abduction of three men outside a hotel in Quetta by the FC personnel some time ago. Luckily, the CCTV footage of the incident has somehow made its way to the court through the Balochistan Police.

The IG FC’s ‘explanation’ for the footage was that some elements are impersonating the FC! To what end, neither the IG FC nor any reasonable person can explain. It is pertinent to mention that the police have recently been encouraged by the SC to report the wrongdoings of the FC to the court without any fear. It has also been directed to recover the three captives immediately. The bench was justified in reminding the FC chief to maintain people’s confidence in its force as at present the majority of the Baloch hold the FC responsible for the decade-old oppression and atrocities committed in the province.

The FC chief mentioned a large number of attacks on the police and FC in Balochistan in the past 18 months. He seemed to be ignoring the fact that injustice and atrocities invite retaliation from the oppressed. There have been innumerable incidents of target killings, forced disappearances, illegal arrests, unlawful detentions and brutal torture of Baloch nationalists at the hands of the FC, which is believed to be enjoying a free hand in dealing with the dissenting voices in the province. That is the reason the FC has been facing armed resistance from nationalist groups in the province.

On Monday, in a powerful car bomb blast on a convoy of the FC at Almo Chowk in Quetta, two FC personnel and a woman lost their lives while 35 others, including 10 security personnel, received severe injuries. Although no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, such attacks are to be expected unless the FC chief reins in his force’s illegal activities and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan if he wants peace to prevail. The SC has rightly highlighted the fact that evidence exists against the FC, proving its hand in the abductions of missing persons. It is indeed heartening that after so many years, the FC has been held accountable by the judiciary, which seems to have taken up the matter with the seriousness it deserves. *