ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the government on Tuesday to evolve a long-term strategy to protect Hazara community in Quetta.
The Supreme Court rejected a report on intensified measures to protect the minority ethnic Hazara Shiite community after the latest attack killed 90 people in the Baluchistan provincial capital Quetta on February 16.
The provincial government, which had been ordered by the court to present a report, said it had increased the number of police and was checking vehicles. It promised to instal scanners to check for explosives.
But Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said this was not enough.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the provincial government report about the steps taken in the aftermath of Hazara massacre on February 16, the court said the Hazara community in Balochistan should not be isolated. "You have to take long-term measures, you should go to the root cause of such incidents. The steps taken are temporary," Justice Iftikhar said. "This report has not given us any satisfaction," he said, ordering the arrest of all those responsible for recent attacks.
Justice Azmat Saeed, a member of the three-member bench, said: “The report is not only dissatisfactory but frightening.” The court said according to the report, the law-enforcement agencies and the provincial administration had so far failed in identifying the root causes of the incidents which were taking place in Quetta, Mastung and Machh areas of Balochistan, taking precious lives of the people.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, heard the suo motu case regarding the Quetta blast that claimed 87 people, mostly from Hazara community.
Earlier, Balochistan Additional Prosecutor General Azam Khan Khattak submitted the provincial government report. According to the report, security at Alamdar Road was enhanced and five entry and exit points out of 43 of the locality of Hazara community were closed. The chief justice said: “Do you want to isolate the Hazara community?” The government should make efforts for harmony and peace instead of isolating the Hazara community, the SC remarked.
The court directed the chief secretary, the home secretary as well as the IGs of FC and police to submit a comprehensive report pertaining to restoration of peace in the provincial capital so that every citizen of the province could feel secure and live with honour and dignity. The court also said that Hazara community should not be isolated from the rest of the society so that business sector of the province could not be affected.
“The report, submitted by the additional advocate general, indicates that the law-enforcing agencies and the local administration have not so far succeeded in identifying the root causes of the incidents taking place in various districts of Balochistan,” The CJP observed.
“We are of the opinion that the measures taken by the provincial authorities are insufficient and it should take effective measures to ensure the arrest of the culprits involved in the incidents that took lives of the innocent people,” the court ruled.
The court ordered payment of compensation to the families of the bomb blasts victims and to those injured in these incidents. Khattak told the court that the provincial authorities had constituted a committee which would prepare lists of the heirs of the victims for compensation.
“You should have compensated the heirs of the victims of bomb blasts earlier,” the chief justice asked the official, adding it was responsibility of the state to protect the citizens as enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution. “Tell us what the root cause of these incidents is. Get information from the chief secretary as to what effective steps are being taken to protect the lives and properties of the people of the province,” the chief justice told the official.
Allama Abbas Kameli, former senator of Shia community, also appeared during the proceedings and thanked the court for taking action regarding the incidents. He told the court that the provincial authorities had not yet compensated the victims of the bomb blasts, adding such incidents had been occurring since 1993, but no concrete steps had so far been taken to curb them with sincerity.
He told the court that most of the injured were taken to Karachi for medical treatment, but the provincial government failed to shift them back to Quetta and the Shia community and others made their own arrangements for bringing them back.
The senator further said they were not in favour of placing Quetta under army control, but wanted a Swat-like operation in the province to restore peace.
During the proceedings, PPP MNA Nasir Ali Shah also appeared before the court and said the government would not take any action against those involved in these incidents, but would only concentrate on increasing the force.
He said if the government wanted to resolve the issue it should constitute a board comprising heads of all the law enforcing agencies. To save Balochistan from further bloodshed, a concrete and sound policy was need of the hour, he opined.
The court adjourned the hearing till March 6 with the direction to the chief secretary, home secretary, IGP and FC IG to prepare a comprehensive plan to restore peace to the province and submit a compliance report.