Crucial Conversations

The Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Justice Ifthakar Mohammad Chaudhary and the Inspector General of the Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan, Major General Ubaidullah Khan engaged in a fascinating conversation on Monday during the ongoing hearing of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the issue of the missing Baloch persons.

It is too premature and simplistic to hope that the ongoing hearing will lead to the release or recovery of all the missing persons in Balochistan. But such conversations, which should have ideally started as early as 2004, are a healthy and positive development. Monday’s hearing showed how security forces had mismanaged Balochistan for almost a decade. They committed all illegal acts and easily got away with it because of the absence of  a culture of accountability.

The Balochistan Police once again embarrassed the FC by sharing the video evidence of the extrajudicial disappearance of a Baloch citizen who was forcefully whisked away by FC personnel. The judges, it seemed, were fully convinced about the authenticity of the video. On the top of it, the Deputy Inspector General of Balochistan, Hamid Shakil, also told the court that members of Balochistan’s Traffic Police had seen under their nose the illegal actions of the FC personnel in broad daylight. One such example, the DIG said, was the forceful detention of 29-year old Mehran Khan whose forced disappearance was witnessed by traffic police officers. While the FC had justified Mr. Khan’s detention by accusing him of  indulging into criminal activities, the FC now denies having him in its custody.

When the Chief Justice asked the Inspector General to provide an answer to the strong evidence available against his force, the IG even brushed aside the authenticity of the video. He insisted that the folks shown in the video were actually not Fc personnel but ‘criminals’ who had worn the FC uniform. This is a shocking remark from the head of such an important security force who, after all,  has not been asked to review a Bollywood action movie but to provide an honest account of the deplorable state of FC’s involvement in human rights abuses.

The defensive IG is unwilling to accept any solid evidence against his force. He was baffled when the Chief Justice asked him about the official vehicles the personnel used while whisking away the Baloch boy and also lack of action at FC check posts. The IG had no satisfactory answers to the valid and tough questions of the Chief Justice but he still refused to take responsibility for the charges leveled against FC men.

The Chief Justice has ordered the IG FC to come up with better results in the next hearing on the same topic on May 21st. As stated above, there is not much this hearing is going to immediately achieve in terms of seeking the release of  allthe missing persons. But this is still a very important dialogue among important government officers who, in the past, had been easily forgiving each other’s negligence of duty. That culture  of impunity is diminishing, some signs show.

Officers like the IG FC are being asked again and again about the illegal actions of the FC which is a positive beginning toward bringing security forces under civilian control. Had the judiciary taken the same level of interest several months ago, hundreds of the missing persons  in Balochistan would not lose their lives in kill and dump operations. (Courtesy: The Baloch Hal)


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