Setting a good precedent

In a written reply to the Supreme Court regarding the 11 missing prisoners, the ISI and MI chiefs wrote, “They (the spy agencies) chase and hound those who play into the hands of the enemies of our dearest homeland.” ‘Hound’ they do, not even those who are the ‘enemies’ of this country but countless others who are innocent but are penalised by the spy agencies for dissenting views. It seems that our intelligence agencies are above the law. It would not be wrong to ask then, what exactly is the mandate of the spy agencies? The ISI was created as an internal intelligence agency for the armed forces to ensure that there was no breach of national security within the military. Instead, thanks to Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and later the Afghan jihad, the ISI’s mandate was somehow changed. In the 80s, due to the very nature of covert operations, ISI officers were allowed to function autonomously. Thus, the ISI came to be seen as a ‘state within a state’. Later, especially during Musharraf’s era, ISI officers were subsequently pulled back to their normal functioning but the culture of impunity with which they function carried on. The war on terror has further unleashed their wrath on the citizens of Pakistan. In FATA and Swat, reports of extrajudicial killings by the military and its spy agencies keep coming in. What the military and its spy agencies are doing in Balochistan is no secret — from torture to abductions to bullet-riddled mutilated bodies, the list of their atrocities is endless. What is needed is an end of this cruelty.

The Supreme Court has done the correct thing by seeking their written statements and summoning the spy chiefs. It is about time that our spy networks start being accountable for their atrocious behaviour. By making them answerable, the courts would shatter the walls of impunity the spy agencies have drawn around themselves. If Pakistan is to progress, it has to value civil and human rights. Let this be a test case and we hope that the Supreme Court would take it to its logical conclusion no matter how difficult it may be. Someone needs to set a new precedent!

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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