missing persons issue, especially in Balochistan where it has assumed the proportions of an epidemic.
The three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has pinned the blame for the disappearances of the missing persons in Balochistan squarely on the Frontier Corps (FC). The court came to this conclusion on the basis of reports and evidence presented to it, which in one instance at least, established the culpability of the FC. And given the spate of such incidents over the last few years in Balochistan, it would not be illogical to surmise that this was not an isolated incident but rather part of a pattern in the ‘dirty war’ being waged against dissident nationalists and the intelligentsia of Balochistan, in the mistaken belief that if such ‘troublemakers’ are eliminated, the problem would go away. In essence, what the FC and intelligence agencies have been up to is a slow genocide in the province. This is a high risk, highly dangerous course that has stoked the fires of separatism in the province and threatens the very foundations of the country. It is also proof that we have failed to learn any lessons from our fraught history, in which the attempt to solve essentially political issues through the use of force by the state (or rather the deep state) has more often than not brought us tragedy and enormous loss (the East Pakistan example should suffice to make the point).
The SC has, since the restoration of the judiciary, taken pains to focus on the missing persons issue, especially in Balochistan where it has assumed the proportions of an epidemic. The SC bench therefore ordered the intelligence agencies and police to recover and produce before the court at the next hearing on July 9 at the Quetta Registry of the SC, at least the 93 missing persons whose cases have been proved to be genuine. Of course this will not satisfy those in Balochistan or elsewhere in the country who hold that even one missing person is one too many, not to mention the quoted figure by nationalist sources and the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons platform of thousands of such victims of the abduct, torture, dump bodies cruel policy. Nevertheless, even these few initial drops of rain can only bring hope and cheer to the families of the missing, who have been running from pillar to post for years in search of justice. The SC also ordered the federal defence secretary, Balochistan chief and home secretaries, IG police, FC IG to take concrete measures for recovery of the identified beyond doubt missing persons. The court ordered the Balochistan Home Secretary Naseemullah Bazai to raise the compensation for the families of 381 persons whose bodies have been found all over the province from the Balochistan government’s contemplated Rs 0.4 million each to Rs 1 million and pay it within three days. The court requires a compliance report in this regard at the next hearing on July 9. Of these 381 dumped bodies, the home secretary revealed that 102were found in 2010, 203 in 2011 and 76 already in 2012. Clearly then, the policy of kill and dump is alive and kicking and arguably getting worse.
While the SC’s efforts in this matter are a source of solace to the families of the disappeared as well as right thinking people throughout the country, it constitutes one of the toughest challenges before the court. It remains to be seen whether, despite the clear and uncompromising instructions of the SC, the intelligence establishment and the FC, cocooned to date in a culture of impunity and non-accountability, will respond positively and do what the court requires. The test lies ahead.