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PAKISTAN: Balochistan:rule of law or the maintenance of law?

PAKISTAN: Balochistan – rule of law or the maintenance of law and order?

Mr. Jinnah, could not differentiate between the rule of law and the rule by force which has resulted several military actions in Balochistan

by Baseer Naweed
April 9, 2014

The provincial Interior Minister of Balochistan has stated that a terrorist attack on a passenger train resulting in the death of 18 persons was an attempt to avenge the Frontier Corp (FC) Kalat operation by the militants and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). The minister tried, as is the usual practice of the government, to place the blame for the deaths on some militant groups in an effort to hide the negligence and failure of the government to protect the people. If the statement of the provincial minister is accepted as correct then it means that the deaths were a result of retaliation by the terrorists against the FC operations and not as a direct result of their operations.

This is a fairly blatant admission from the provincial minister that the government and military has no concept of how to tackle the sensitive issues of the people of a neglected province but rather try to solve the political issues with military force in the mere pretext of safeguarding the security of the province and the country.

The governments always try to deal with the situation arising out of continuous repression through law and order and not with the intention of providing justice. They have never considered that by providing justice to the people the issues could be settled under the concept of the rule of law. Providing justice to the Baloch has always been a last resort of the authorities; a last resort that they have never fallen back on.

The main problem of the state authorities and the so-called civilian governments is that they mix the rule of law with the maintenance of law and order. The law and order cannot be a substitute for the rule of law in any context.

The concept of law and order was introduced by the colonial powers for the purpose of allowing them to deal harshly with the people who resorted to different means of protest to achieve their rights. Whereas, the rule of law means that the laws should treat all the citizens equally and ensure justice without discrimination. It purports that institutions of law should be established in such a manner that the people can have easy access to them in order to obtain justice.

In the case of terrorism in Pakistan, either the state created and nurtured the terrorist groups in order to get involved in international conflicts and also for the purpose of obtaining huge amounts in grants by western forces, or state used repressing methods at the small nationalities by usurping their fundamental rights and natural resources and in doing so, forcing them to resort to armed struggle or terrorists activities, including bombings and other subversive actions.

In using these methods, the state always considered that the best option is to go for maintaining law and order by the use of force. The rule of law was thought to be the weakest option of running the country. This is the main cause why the institutions of justice were never developed but instead more funds were invested in strengthening the law enforcement authorities. This is the reason why the law enforcement authorities have never respected the legal and civil institutions and behave as if they are above the law.

In the case of Balochistan the rule of law has never been introduced to resolve the basic issues of the province but the maintenance of law and order was given priority since the creation of the country.

The founder of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah, though he was a veteran lawyer, could not differentiate between the rule of law and rule by force. Within months of the creation of Pakistan he sent the armed forces to annex Balochistan, thereby making it part of Pakistan without realising the fundamental question of rule of law. The successive governments also thought that if the father of the nation could not differentiate between the rule of law based on justice and the use of force for usurping the rights of the people as the basic ideology of Pakistan then they could do the same. Since the creation of Pakistan five military operations have been conducted, and hundreds of Baloch were hanged and thousands disappeared and extrajudicially killed -- but the issue of Balochistan has remained as it was since the time of the creation of the country.

The irony of the political parties is that they come through the peoples’ votes and present themselves as the elected people of Pakistan but it is incomprehensible for them to understand the fundamental concept of the rule of the law and maintenance of the law and order.

It is not a thin veil between the rule of law and the maintenance of law and order but rather a vast difference between the two. This is the reason why, on the one side the government is dealing with the poor and neglected people of Balochistan harshly and with all the facilities of the army and air force and at the same time, bowing down before the Muslim militant groups and the Taliban who have huge amounts of funding from both local sources and international Muslim countries and organisations and at the same time enjoy the very latest in modern military weaponry.

The struggle in Balochistan is for greater autonomy of their resources based on secular ideals; whereas, the Taliban movement is based on converting the country into a purely fundamentalist Shariah-based Islamic society and to destroy all forms of democracy. Being an Islamic country by means of its constitution it is easier for the state to deal with the Taliban rather than negotiate with secular and independent forces. Therefore, in the eyes of the state Islamic terrorism is the lesser of the evils because it will never insist on the rule of law and always be happy to maintain law and order by force.

The actions of the FC in the various districts of Balochistan were exactly what the state concept of law and order demands according to the wishes of the father of the nation. The Minister of the Interior of Balochistan was happy to say that in the Kalat operations the forces killed 30 to 40 persons while using helicopters for logistic purposes only because the nation would be pleased at the news of so many insurgents being killed. He cannot comprehend that these actions will wield a bloody response from the militant groups that never differentiate between the civilians and law enforcement personnel as they consider everyone to be their enemies.

Minister Mr. Bugti is famous in dealing with the province harshly with his illegal detention centers and torture cells in his home town of Dera Bugti and detaining young persons, in particular, who are generally unhappy with the provincial and Pakistan governments. When a man with such a mentality is appointed as the Interior Minister he will always think that the rule of law is a foolish thing and all issues can be dealt with by force.

Therefore, it is the FC and provincial government that are equally responsible for the attack on a passenger train in which 18 persons were killed and one family of eight persons were burned alive. The government must pay compensation to the families of the deceased and those affected by the attack because the deaths were caused by its actions.

This is the time for the government and the political parties to follow the rule of law rather than expending all their resources on maintaining law and order. The institutions of the rule of law must be strengthened and investments in law and order by force must be stopped. The law and order, which the government wants to maintain although it has not been benefiting the people-has been apparently a failed exercise when once looks into the Taliban and other militant groups who are taking their roots to the country. Without comprehending the essence and unavoidable necessity of immediately establishing the rule of law the entire nation or any it’s provincial governments are not approaching any form of solution of the existing problems that the people are plunge into.

*************

Baseer Naweed is the Pakistan Desk Office of the Asian Human Rights Commission.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Visit our new website with more features at www.humanrights.asia.

ENDS

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