Why Selective Suo Moto Action ?

By Malik Siraj Akbar

We truly live in typical bad times. There were the days of comparatively better governance when a case of kidnapping would get resolved through amicable negotiations among influential stakeholders of the society.

A case of kidnapping would hardly echo in an office higher than that of a district Deputy Commissioner. Now, kidnappings for ransom in Balochistan have emerged as such a serious issue that the Chief Justice (CJ) of the High Court, the highest authority responsible for dispensing justice in the province, is required to take suo moto notice of individual kidnapping cases.

The decision of Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court, Mr. Justice Faez Isa, to take suo moto notice of the kidnapping of a Khuzdar-based high court lawyer, Munir Ahmed Mirwani, does not cheer up many. It is really a pity that the CJ is using his most important card, the suo moto notice, for cases of kidnapping. If the Chief Justice of the province has to pay all his attention to the kidnapping cases then who is going to adjudicate on more important matters? What role are the police and lower courts playing in the wake of increasing cases of kidnapping? How come the kidnappers have gained so much strength that the Chief Justice is asked to play his role as the last hope for those who have been abducted?

The Chief Justice noted: ” There has been a spate of kidnappings and the performance of the police and other law enforcement agencies is not at a level to effectively combat this menace. Mr. Munir Ahmed was an Advocate and both the High Court Bar Association and the Balochistan Bar Association have been protesting about his abduction ”

Amid all odds, Munir is still too lucky to gain the attention of the provincial top judge because he, a lawyer by profession, is backed by strong professional associations. The lawyers in Balochistan have been aggressively protesting against his kidnapping. They threatened to boycott the courts from July 5 if serious action was not taken to ensure Munir’s immediate and safe release.

The lawyers associations have been holding meetings with top government officials and influential tribal leaders in order to secure the release of Munir Ahmed. It was the mounting pressure from the lawyers that possibly forced the Chief Justice to take suo moto notice.

Previously, another senior lawyer Ifthakar-ul-Haq was also kidnapped in Quetta. In spite of his subsequent release, nothing was ever revealed about his kidnappers and the “deal” that led to his release. The most interesting part of his release was its timing. He was allowed to walk back home by his captors only a few hours after Governor Balochistan Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi told the media that everybody know who the kidnappers were.

So did the Governor really know who the kidnappers were? Of course, he did. After all, he is an influential tribal chief who keeps abreast of all the developments taking place across the province. Secondly, did the kidnappers belong to a gang that was headed by some well-known leader and feared that the Governor may disclose their identity if they continued to blackmail the provincial government for a longer period? All these possibilities cannot be ruled out. It is hard to believe that the big guns in the provincial government do not know about the structure, location, leadership, strength and operational tactics of the gangs involved in kidnappings.

The suo moto action taken by the Chief Justice is surely encouraging for the friends and family members of the kidnapped lawyer. But this gesture will also disappoint many others who do not have as high a profile as Munir Ahmed? Why did the Chief Justice not take suo moto notice about numerous other cases before? Why have the suo moto actions been confined to the privileged and high-profile people?

The honorable Chief Justice, before taking suo moto notice for Munir Ahmed alone, should have taken a look at the overall situation ion of Balochistan. The issue of kidnappings and disappearances is the biggest source of disillusionment among the people of Balochistan. Suo moto action should have been taken to find out the whereabouts of four aide workers of Mercy Corps who have been missing for many months now. One of the kidnapped among the Mercy Corps staff members was killed by the kidnappers, which has further jeopardized the security of the remaining people held in the custody of the kidnappers.

Baloch doctors have been on a strike now for more than a month over the ‘enforced disappearance’ of Baloch doctors, Din Mohammad, Dr. Naseem Baloch and Dr. Akbar Marri. The prolonged strike by the doctors has enormously increased the problems of ailing patients who are languishing at various hospitals.

In the same way, the mother and sister of Baloch student leader Zakir Majeed have been observing a hunger strike in front of Quetta Press Club to seek the whereabouts of their young family members.

Separately, the Jammat-e-Islami has established another hunger strike camp to demand the release of two missing persons, Saeed Ahmed and Mehboob Wadela. This is followed by the recent disappearance of Shams Baloch, a leader of the Baloch National Front (BNF), who was allegedly taken away by the security forces when he was being brought from Khuzdar to Quetta in an official ambulance for medical treatment.

Where have all these people gone? Ideally, one would wish that the government should take action to relocate all the kidnapped and missing persons. Over its failure, the Balochistan High Court is seen as the “last hope” for many families. Therefore, the BHC should not prioritize one lawyer’s case and ignore the others. The honorable Chief Justice should take action to ensure the release of all kidnapped and disappeared people.

The issue of kidnapping and disappearances is too serious and requires urgent attention. State institutions that keep people in solitary confinement and deny them a fair trial are as much guilty (of violating the law of the land) as the kidnappers who take away people to seek ransom.

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