EDITORIAL: Security failure: who is responsible? - Saturday, March 05, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\05\story_5-3-2011_pg3_1

The late Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was buried yesterday in Khushpur, his native village near Faisalabad. A funeral service was first held in Islamabad, attended by Prime Minister Gilani and other dignitaries. Mr Bhatti’s assassination in the federal capital cannot be condemned enough. Protest rallies were taken out all over the country and people demanded that justice be done by catching the perpetrators. Protestors also asked for tolerance in Pakistani society. Christians and Muslims both protested against the rising intolerance and demanded that the government should take a firm stand on religious extremism. It was also disconcerting to see the Punjab government’s mealy-mouthed response when it came to condemning the Taliban. The PML-N should be ashamed of its policies of not just appeasing terrorist networks but protecting them.

The Punjabi Taliban have claimed responsibility for this brutal murder but a question that still looms large on everyone’s mind is whether this tragedy could have been averted had proper security been provided to Mr Bhatti. Many parliamentarians, including the ruling PPP’s Jamshed Dasti, demanded Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s resignation immediately for failing to control lawlessness. Mr Malik said, “There was no security lapse on behalf of the government or the police. If the investigation teams find any security lapse I would resign from the [Interior] Ministry.” It is time to remind Mr Malik that the police is totally clueless and out of the 60 suspects arrested for Mr Bhatti’s assassination, 30 have been released and the rest will most likely also be released since the law enforcement agencies have no evidence to link them to this case. While Mr Malik has blamed the Punjab Police for negligence in Governor Taseer’s murder, the federal interior ministry cannot be absolved of a security lapse in failing to provide their governor additional security. It is surprising that the federal government thought the Punjab government, which is not only hostile to the PPP but was particularly unhappy with Mr Taseer, could have been trusted to give foolproof security to the late governor. The blame for the security lapse in Mr Taseer’s assassination rests as much with the Punjab government as with the Interior Ministry.

As for Mr Bhatti’s security, Mr Malik was quite insensitive in claiming that the slain minister for minorities was responsible for his own death due to his negligence. According to Mr Malik, an escort of 15 armed personnel had been provided to the minority affairs minister “but he [Mr Bhatti] did not avail it during his preferred and frequented destinations”. Even if Mr Bhatti had requested that the security detail not be present with him at all times, given the sensitivity of the blasphemy laws issue and the grave threats to Mr Bhatti’s life, the Interior Ministry should have insisted against this ‘request’ as it is their job to protect the lives of Pakistani officials and citizens. Rehman Malik’s reasoning sounds as absurd as General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s, who laid the blame for Ms Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at her own doorstep. When General Musharraf shifted the blame for a security lapse under his own regime, it was widely condemned. Mr Malik’s doing the same thing is equally irresponsible. It is unlikely that Mr Malik would be asked to step down by his party leadership as he belongs to the coterie of people who are in control of the PPP and which enjoys the patronage of the man on the top.

In any responsible and civilised society, those in power are held accountable when a high profile assassination takes place. Unfortunately, two such assassinations took place in Islamabad within two months and yet no one has stepped down in the face of rising lawlessness. It is time that those at the top take their responsibilities seriously or step down. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Judges’ apology

The Supreme Court (SC) was gracious enough to accept the unconditional apology offered by Justice (retired) Abdul Hameed Dogar and Justice Zahid Hussain, who had been charged with contempt of court among other judges for violating the restraining order of the Supreme Court on November 3, 2007 and taking oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) after General Pervez Musharraf imposed an emergency. On February 2, in an unprecedented development, the SC had started proceedings against nine judges of the Supreme Court and various high courts after a long argument whether the constitution allowed such an action against fellow judges. In response to this, a judge of the Peshawar High Court had issued show-cause notices to all the judges of the SC bench that had started these proceedings. The SC then retrained all the non-functional judges from issuing orders and deemed them illegal.

Acceptance of the apology is a good development, which hopefully will help conclude this case dragging on since the judiciary was restored in May 2009. This case should not have been instituted in the first place because an oath under the PCO is a highly controversial matter, as the currently judiciary is an extension of judges who took oath under PCO in 2000 after General Musharraf launched a coup and illegally removed the elected government. Treating the PCOs of 2000 and 2007 differently on the plea of different circumstances is not convincing and credible. Justice (retired) Abdul Hameed Dogar, who was made chief justice of Pakistan after the removal of Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in November 2007, was centre-stage in this whole controversy. Since what the SC considers ‘the main culprit’ has apologised, part of the controversy has been laid to rest. The trial of judges for contempt is not bringing any good to the institution of the judiciary. It has left a bad taste and will set a bad precedent of judges issuing contempt notices to judges. Perhaps it is time to let bygones be bygones. The matter should be left to the superior wisdom of the apex court to resolve this matter in a sagacious manner befitting their institution. *

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