QUETTA – Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry Wednesday remarked that if Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani does not want implementation of the Supreme Court’s orders, other options including ‘emergency’ were available in the constitution.
Heading a three-judge SC bench hearing cases on the law and order situation and human rights violations in Balochistan, the chief justice was irked by the absence of Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zafarullah Zehri. He ordered the interior secretary to register a case against him, saying that if Zehri did not want to appear, he must be arrested and produced before the court.
PM’s Principal Secretary Khushnood Lashari, Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi, Balochistan DIG, IG Police and chief secretary appeared before the court. The apex court expressed resentment as those responsible continued to defy the court’s orders.
During a dialogue with Khushnood Lashari, the chief justice remarked: “We respect the prime minister. (But) If the prime minister says restoring law and order and implementation of constitution is not his responsibility then constitution will take its course.” The court could take steps including imposition of emergency, he added. The chief justice observed they had no enmity with anybody rather they were trying to do something good for the country. “The nation has given us respect and now, this the time, we should pay ( them back).”
Addressing Lashari, he said that situation in the province was critical but government was not taking any corrective steps. The principal secretary of PM said that the latter had held special meetings on all issues of Balochistan. At this, Justice Jawwad said, “We believe it that meetings have been held for 24 hours but what is the result”. Lashkari said that Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad was an experienced officer who was posted as Balochistan chief secretary while under 18th constitutional amendment the provinces have been empowered politically and economically so that they could solve the problems of people at local level. He said that Aghaz Haqooq-e-Balochistan package was also announced for the people of Balochistan.
The CJ told him to visit the province to witness the on-ground situation, saying that peoples’ homes were burning, target killings were rampant and police was helpless, but no one was giving answers. The chief justice said the provincial capital of Quetta had no-go areas and that police officers were not willing to work in Balochistan. Quoting the statement of Salauddin Mengal advocate, Justice Chaudhry remarked that situation was so grave in the province that you would not find a Pakistani flag and anthem even just 10 miles off Quetta city. “The governments come and go. I will not be in this office tomorrow. One of the judges sitting beside me will become chief justice, but we have to save Pakistan. We should become aware of this critical situation and, God forbid, if we lost the time we can face another national crisis.”
Justice Iftikhar said that the province’s security situation had become so alarming that it was time the prime minister summoned the province’s governor and chief minister. He said the government was not following article 148 of the constitution despite repeated reminders. He said that if the prime minister would not act to improve the situation, the constitution would take its course and that might even entail the option of imposition of emergency. He said that governor and chief minister were attacked. The nephew of CM was killed and an organisation with name Tehreek Aman claimed it had arrested the killers of CM’s nephew and they would be killed. “This is the state of affairs in Balochistan,“ the CJ remarked.
Khushnood Lashari assured the court that they would again bring the observations of the court into notice of prime minister. The prime minister had also formed a committee of ministers on Balochistan’s deteriorated situation, he added. At this, chief justice observed a member of the committee had inquired from Sardar Akthar Mengal whether he lives in Balochistan. How those people who know nothing about Balochistan would solve issues of the province, he remarked. The chief justice said, “Before the army impose a martial law why we do not implement the constitution. We will hold direct talks the prime minister if needed for the sake of the country. There is no problem of ego for us. However, there is a case against him that is why we are careful in this regard”.
“People are blaming Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Frontier Corps (FC) and other law enforcement agencies,” the CJ said. The defence secretary told the bench that ISI and MI had prepared a report pertaining to the situation in Balochistan. Sethi also said she had spoken to officials from both these agencies over the situation in the province.
Chairing a cabinet meeting on Wednesday Gilani directed his principal secretary and the cabinet secretary to appear before the apex court in Quetta. A PM House statement said, “It clearly manifests how much the government holds the Supreme Court in high esteem.” Earlier, unable to satisfy the judges during Tuesday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General Malik Sikander walked out of court and later submitted his resignation.
When the matter of some missing persons was mentioned, the chief justice asked Balochistan advocate general as to who had detained those people. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain asked the advocate general as to how they can resolve the Balochistan issue. He remarked they were trying to control this fire by playing their role. Justice Khilji told advocate general that this was the biggest problem of Pakistan and asked him for telling the truth and reveal who actually had picked up those people. “People are naming those institutions whose people are scarifying their lives. It should be told who have picked up those people. We are here to put out the fire,” he remarked.
Justice Khwaja remarked that Chief Minister Balochistan Aslam Raisani had been in Quetta for a mere seven days in the past six months. The court issued summons for Balochistan’s home minister to appear before it. The hearing was subsequently adjourned to June 1.