SC’S Balochis­tan recipe

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

AN ex­tra­or­di­nary and un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion pre­vails in the prov­ince of Balochis­tan. On the sur­face, it is demon­strated by the Supreme Court’s Oc­to­ber 12 in­terim or­der that cen­sures the three core power-bro­kers – the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, the mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties as rep­re­sented by the FC, Corps HQ, MI and ISI, and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment – for var­i­ous omis­sions and com­mis­sions that have laid the prov­ince low, and nails the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment for hav­ing lost its “con­sti­tu­tional right to rule”. Un­der­ly­ing the cri­sis, how­ever, are four dis­tinct and con­tra­dic­tory developments that all power-wield­ers, in­clud­ing the SC, are loath to ad­dress.

The first is the sec­u­lar sep­a­ratist move­ment of Baloch na­tion­al­ists that was trig­gered by the rigged proMut­tahida Ma­jlis-e-Amal elec­tions in the prov­ince in 2002 and fu­elled by the sense­less killing of Nawab Ak­bar Bugti some years later. This led to in­sur­gent at­tacks on se­cu­rity forces and eth­nic Pun­jabis in the prov­ince and pulled the mil­i­tary and its in­tel­li­gence agen­cies into the fray, in turn lead­ing to clas­sic counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in­volv­ing un­law­ful “dis­ap­pear­ances”, state-spon­sored an­ti­in­sur­gent lashkars and large scale re­pres­sion. But the dialec­tic of the mod­ern na­tion-state is such that, as long as the un­con­sti­tu­tional in­sur­gency rages, the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment will not aban­don its un­con­sti­tu­tional counter-in­sur­gency doc­trines and meth­ods.

The sec­ond is the in­creas­ing madrassa-isa­tion or Tal­iban­i­sa­tion in the prov­ince ow­ing to its prox­im­ity to Mul­lah Omar’s Tal­iban strongholds in south­ern Afghanistan, which poses a dif­fer­ent but equally lethal threat to the sta­bil­ity of the prov­ince, both in eth­nic terms (the Tal­iban are Pakhtuns and the na­tion­al­ists are Baloch) and in po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy (the Tal­iban are Is­lamic ex­trem­ists op­posed to the US pres­ence in the re­gion and its pup­pet Karzai regime, while the Baloch na­tion­al­ists are sec­u­lar and openly in­clined to seek Amer­i­can, and Karzai’s, as­sis­tance in pur­suit of their sep­a­ratist goals). But as long as this re­gional ma­trix re­mains, Balochis­tan will continue to slide into po­lit­i­cal an­ar­chy.

The third is the per­sis­tence of the tribal sys­tem in which big and small Baloch sar­dars and nawabs – reek­ing of cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence – com­pete for the spoils of of­fice with avari­cious and self-right­eous Pakhtun mul­lahs to en­large their op­por­tunist and ide­o­log­i­cal agen­das re­spec­tively. But as long as eth­nic pas­sions, the lo­cal tribal sys­tem and ide­o­log­i­cal di­vides per­sist, there will be no progress in the prov­ince.

The fourth is the twist in the tale: the mil­i­tary’s “na­tional se­cu­rity agenda” for Pak­istan and the re­gion, in which Is­lamist non-state ac­tors of cer­tain shades have a role to play in the per­ceived so­lu­tion and sec­u­lar­ists and democrats are equal parts of the per­ceived prob­lem. But as long as the mil­i­tary is un­ac­count­ably ob­sessed with its re­gional “en­emy and friends” the­sis in a par­tic­u­larly nar­row def­i­ni­tion of “na­tional in­ter­ests”, there will be no re­prieve.

The SC’s Oc­to­ber 12 or­der seems to ac­knowl­edge some such prob­lem­atic el­e­ments and seeks to show the way for­ward. But it fails to com­pre­hend the mul­ti­di­men­sional and in­ter­link­ing na­ture of the cri­sis. That is why, with demon­stra­bly good in­ten­tions, it has ended up cre­at­ing a “con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis” with­out of­fer­ing any en­dur­ing po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions. Con­sider.

The Oc­to­ber 12 judg­ment makes sev­eral in­ter­ven­tions. (1) It says the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has failed to pro­tect the fun­da­men­tal rights of its cit­i­zens (law and or­der, and se­cu­rity) and has, there­fore, for­feited its con­sti­tu­tional right to rule and can­not be al­lowed to continue as a silent spec­ta­tor to such abuses. (2) It says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has failed to help es­tab­lish “rule of law” in the prov­ince, de­spite send­ing in the mil­i­tary to as­sist the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and that nei­ther gov­ern­ment has ex­er­cised a range of op­tions avail­able to them singly and col­lec­tively.

(3) It says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must en­sure “im­me­di­ate con­sti­tu­tional ac­tion to pro­vide se­cu­rity to the peo­ple” – (a) by end­ing overt and covert mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, di­rectly by the FC and the agen­cies and in­di­rectly by the tribal lashkars pa­tro­n­ised by them; (b) by re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing dis­placed per­sons and com­pen­sat­ing fam­i­lies of those killed or dis­ap­peared; (c) by tight­en­ing cus­toms con­trols over smug­gling, es­pe­cially of ve­hi­cles sub­se­quently used in crime; (d) by pro­hibit­ing is­suance of il­le­gal SIM cards used in crime; (e) by per­suad­ing the me­dia not to pub­lish ma­te­rial that in­cites vi­o­lence and ha­tred; (f) by tight­en­ing up on cor­rup­tion among politi­cians and bu­reau­crats in the prov­ince; (g) by opt­ing for a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to ad­dress the sense of eco­nomic de­pri­va­tion in the prov­ince; and (h) by hold­ing trans­par­ently free and fair gen­eral elec­tions that en­able alien­ated na­tion­al­ist el­e­ments to re­turn to main­stream pol­i­tics.

The ad­min­is­tra­tive op­tions have been clearly spelt out. But the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is un­able to im­ple­ment them. There­fore the SC wants the gov­ern­ment thrown out and a “bet­ter” one ush­ered in via new elec­tions or Gover­nor’s Rule (im­plied). But there’s the rub.

To be sure, the SC has the author­ity to judge whether an ac­tion is un­con­sti­tu­tional or not. It can do so on the ba­sis of a pe­ti­tion by any ci­ti­zen or the pro­vin­cial or fed­eral gov­ern­ments. But it can­not trans­gress the lim­its of its power by mak­ing such a de­ter­mi­na­tion off its own bat or by in­sist­ing on any par­tic­u­lar so­lu­tion to the vi­o­la­tion of cer­tain con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions. In this case, even if the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has lost its “con­sti­tu­tional cred­i­bil­ity” to rule as per the SC, only the pro­vin­cial par­lia­ment or pres­i­dent, on the ad­vice of the prime min­is­ter, can change the sta­tus quo. In­deed, in such cases, the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional cred­i­bil­ity and right to rule of any gov­ern­ment is the ex­clu­sive do­main of the par­lia­ment and the SC can only be asked to step in to chal­lenge or up­hold the par­lia­ment’s view. It is un­prece­dented for the courts to de­mand the ouster of a demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment with­out re­course to par­lia­ment. If this or­der were to be im­ple­mented, what is to stop the SC from sack­ing gov­ern­ments at will for os­ten­si­ble con­sti­tu­tional rea­sons and or­der­ing elec­tions, thereby usurp­ing the pre­rog­a­tives of par­lia­ment?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.