After disappearing without a trace, General Secretary Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Saeed Baloch has suddenly been discovered. With no surprise, the disappeared human rights worker was missing in the hands of Pakistan Rangers who have now admitted that they have detained him.
According to agencies, Saeed Baloch was arrested with three others, Saleem Deedag, Mahar Bux and Dil Murad who have all confessed to providing funds to Peoples Amn Committee and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
This will be an open and shut case for many people. If Rangers spokesman says there has been a confession, many people will blindly accept it. However this incident should raise questions for the judiciary if there is to be any hint of law and order in this country. Sadly, it appears that the judiciary is once again relegated to ‘meekly observing‘.
Surprisingly, the administrative judge of the Anti-Terrorism court, who is also a High Court judge, granted 90 days physical custody to the Rangers of the four suspects. It is no secret to the Sindh provincial judiciary that Saeed Baloch was illegally kept in Rangers’ custody after he was asked to come for an interview at the Rangers’ Kemari station on January 16. In fact, after Saeed’s disappearance, numerous national and international human rights organisations strongly condemned the paramilitary force’s actions, and called for his release. All sections of local media, together with some international media, gave tremendous coverage of his disappearance. Civil society held a huge protest against his disappearance on January 26, which was shown live by all media. Under these circumstances, how can a High Court judge believe the concocted story of the Rangers, without even referring to the petition pending at the Court?
Judicial ineptness and long undermining the judicial role of guaranteeing the fundamental rights of individuals has led to an acceptance of the primacy of law enforcement agencies. Keeping persons incommunicado is seen as their legal right, and their investigations and statements are the sole basis upon which judicial decisions are made. Pakistan’s judiciary thus plays a silent spectator to the human rights abuse meted out to citizens under the various guises of security, morality and national interest.
In a functioning democracy, the Supreme Court would take notice of this clear abuse of power by law enforcement agencies. If there really is authentic evidence against the accused, agencies should not need to kidnap and force confessions. Sadly, this case like many others not only hurts the image of the judiciary as being a toothless creature, but it defames the reputation of security agencies who are seen as taking actions above and beyond the bounds of the law with no accountability to anyone. The Supreme Court needs to step in to save the reputations of both institutions before it is too late.