ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top judge said yesterday he was determined to pursue the government over killings and disappearances in one of the most troubled parts of the country, accusing the authorities of inaction.
Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who in June dismissed the then prime minister, has for months been trying to investigate violence in Baluchistan, in southwestern Pakistan on the Afghan and Iranian borders.
Baluchistan is one of the most deprived areas of Pakistan. Rights activists have accused the military of mass arrests and extrajudicial executions in its bid to put down a separatist insurgency that erupted in 2004.
Chaudhry took the unprecedented step of ordering the security services to produce missing people in court, but said yesterday that despite 71 hearings on Baluchistan, not a single missing person had been recovered.
“It is constitutional responsibility of executive government to protect life and property of citizens and failures to do so are bound to have consequences sooner or later,” Chaudhry told the court.
Baluchistan is also plagued by Islamist militancy, and rights activists have raised concern about increasing sectarian violence against Shiite Muslims.
Chaudhry ordered the Baluchistan government to submit another report in two weeks’ time, but did not set a date for the next hearing.
“We will keep this case open, because we have to ensure the fundamental rights of the people of Baluchistan. But those responsible are not delivering,” he said.
The judge said no one had been arrested over the killings of hundreds of Shiites and at least 26 doctors, and reprimanded security forces for not acting against “influential” people involved in kidnappings.
“Your own minister says on record that ‘yes our own people (in government) are involved in the crime. Somebody has to take the responsibility. The chief minister has to take responsibility,” Chaudhry said.
Shahid Hamid, a lawyer for the provincial government, said that in the last two weeks nine people had been arrested and claimed that there had been only one targeted and one sectarian killing.
Baluch rebels have since 2004 been fighting for political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s oil, mineral and gas resources.