ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has said that the ‘death squads’ of secret agencies have to be abolished, the missing persons recovered and the displaced Baloch rehabilitated, vowing that the Supreme Court will go to any extent to restore peace in restive Balochistan.

The chief justice was heading a three-member-bench hearing the case of law and order situation in Balochistan on Thursday. Baloch nationalist leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal also appeared and presented suggestions for solving this trickiest and most pressing problem of the county.

The chief justice noted with regret that the court had issued 60 orders during the 68 hearings on the case but no practical steps were taken. He said in his remarks that the missing persons would be recovered and that the court would go to any extent, if needed, to achieve the purpose.

All overt and covert operations must be put to an end and the displaced Baloch should be rehabilitated, the CJ said. He said that First Information Reports (FIRs) would be lodged against those held responsible and the cases would be heard in the high courts rather than the lower courts. He said that the ‘death squads’ of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) must be abolished.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal, who is also a former chief minister of Balochistan, told the court that the issue of missing persons is very critical while the roots to the problem can be found in the 65-year political history of the province during which every government deceived the people of the province.

He said that he had appeared only to discuss the missing persons issue and without the resolution of this issue this grave political problem cannot be solved. He said that the agencies should be held responsible for the present situation which he stated to be worse than the situation in Kashmir and Palestine.

The nationalist leader said that the province had undergone five military operations and no one was answerable and no one was there to tell as to what was the fault of the innocent victims. Mengal said that 450 mutilated bodies have been recovered, whose cause of death was no earthquake or tsunami.

Sardar Mengal also said that during the military rule, every attempt was made to suppress the political voice of the Baloch people. He said that even now attempts are being made to eliminate the genuine leadership of the Baloch people replacing them with artificial leadership who were manufactured in factories. He said that federal and provincial lawmakers never visited the rural areas of the province and remained confined to the ministerial secretariat.

The former CM further said that the nationalist leadership was being specifically targeted and the heirs of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti were not even allowed to attend his funeral. He said: “Dera Bugti is in a state where Bugti’s own wife and children cannot visit his grave... Talks can be held only after these matters are resolved.”

Akhtar Mengal told the court that the situation has gone beyond the control of agencies. If an order was issued to rehabilitate the Baloch, displaced since 10 years, then that would be a step forward, he said, adding that pardons and packages would not solve this crisis.

Presenting more suggestions, Mengal said that the missing people should be recovered and their kidnappers should be brought to court. The former chief minister said that those responsible for Bugti’s murder should be punished, while migrants should be provided settlements. He said that whoever is involved in target killings, be it of the Baloch or Hazaras, should be brought to justice.

Before adjourning the hearing until Sept 28, the chief justice directed the Balochistan chief secretary to deliver Mengal’s message to federal and provincial leadership and sought from him a written reply on the issue on the next hearing. He further told the chief secretary to discuss the issue with the president, ISI DG and MI DG and inform the court in writing as to what steps were being taken to resolve the issue.