Need to redefine the role of Frontier Corps
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The Frontier Corps (FC) has by now emerged as a power center in Balochistan. There is no gainsaying the importance of this federal paramilitary force in a province that shares borders with Iran and volatile Afghanistan. Official efforts to increase the deployment of the Frontier Corps on the border towns and develop its capabilities are understandable. The FC is desperately needed to guard the country’s borders in order to make sure that Taliban do not cross into Pakistani territory to implement their destructive plans.
On the contrary, the FC has alarmingly deviated from its constitutional role. Instead of actively operating on the border, it has assumed the role of a community police. The FC maintains scores of check posts in various districts, carries out body search of citizens and irritates them with endless questions about their movement. As the border with Afghanistan and Iran remain unattended, the FC is rapidly drawing criticism from the people of Balochistan. Complaints against the unprofessional attitude of the FC with the citizens are increasing.
The latest perturbing development that further makes it hard to defend the role of FC in Balochistan was witnessed on Friday during a protest rally in Khuzdar. The local chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said that the FC opened fire on a political rally that killed two political workers and injured four others. Those killed also included a young student from Balochistan Residential College, Khuzdar. On their part, the FC officials said they were not deployed at all at the rally where the firing incident took place. The HRCP account of the firing incident is also supported by local political parties and civil society groups.
It is not the first time that FC has been held responsible for such serious crimes. Previously, eyewitness accounts said personnel of the same force had stormed into the legal chamber of Kachkol Ali Baloch, former leader of the opposition in Balochistan Assembly, in Turbat district to whisk away three prominent Baloch nationalist leaders. Though an attempt was made by the Baloch leaders to register a case against the FC in the local police station, the police in the area refused to cooperate on the account of its inability to register a case against the FC. Even the so-called independent judiciary did not take notice of the disappearance of three Baloch leaders until their dead bodies were recovered a week later in a deserted place in the outskirts of Turbat.
The arrest of Baloch leaders and their subsequent murder allegedly by the FC was hopefully not ordered by the provincial government. In fact, it was an attempt to defame the provincial government and undermine the credibility of chief minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani who had initiated a process of dialogue and reconciliation with the Baloch leaders. The provincial government should have acted briskly not merely to dispense justice among the families of the three Baloch leaders but to thwart all conspiracies being hatched against the provincial government. The Turbat incident significantly alienated the people of Balochistan. They thought inaction on the part of the provincial government indicated that some segments of the provincial government backed the operations of the FC.
It is very unfortunate that two commissions constituted to probe the killing of three Baloch leaders in Turbat –one by the home ministry and the other by the Balochistan High Court (BHC) – have still not come up with their fact findings.
Later on, FC was blamed last year for besieging the offices of three newspapers –Daily Asaap, Daily Azadi and Daily Balochistan Express. It was indeed once again wrong and arrogant use of authority given to the FC. With the passage of time, FC has undertaken multiple tasks; the worst among all is its role to crush democratic forces in Balochistan. Largely staffed by non-Balochs, the FC baton charged and killed one young student in Mand district last year in August on the eve of death anniversary of late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.
Former Balochistan governor and corps commander General ® Abdul Qadir Baloch has proposed that a judicial inquiry must be conducted into the killing of two political workers allegedly by FC in Khuzdar. The truth is still to come out as the FC spokesman insisted while talking to the media that FC had not opened fire on the civilians. There is nothing wrong with proposing another judicial probe. However, it is unlikely to soothe the angry Balochs because the report about the killing of three Baloch leaders in Mekran has not come out yet. Therefore, formation of mere commissions and inquiry teams is widely seen as an attempt to divert public attention from the original sin.
If timely check is not put on the role and operations of the Frontier Corps (FC), it is going to widen the gulf between the government and the masses. While FC will have nothing to lose, it will remarkably undermine the roots of the provincial government. Now that the government is gradually implementing t6he Balochistan package, Chief Minister Raisani must realize that FC is trying to create such circumstances under which his government will lose popular support.
As a first administrative measure, the controversial inspector general of the FC should be removed from his post. He has been a source of controversy and provocation due to his antagonistic rhetoric in the media against the Baloch leaders. This demand has also been made by several political parties. The process of reconciliation in Balochistan must not be allowed to be hijacked by the inspector general of the Frontier Corps. Major General Saleem Nawaz, the current IG FC, should be replaced immediately with a more responsible professional officer who should respect the local leadership and traditions. Moreover, the IG FC must work on engaging his force on the border areas instead of engaging it in scuffle with the local people.
THE BALOCH HAL IS THE FIRST ONLINE ENGLISH NEWSPAPER OF BALOCHISTAN