The Balochistan cauldron continues to boil, with several heavyweights adding their deadly contributions to the brew. There have been certain developments that have taken place in quick succession on Thursday and Friday that have brought the political crisis in the province to a head. The latest is the pronouncement by the Supreme Court that its order of October 12, which questioned the legitimacy of the Raisani government for failing to perform its constitutional duty of protecting the lives and property of the people, stands. In its hearing on Friday, the court wanted to know under what authority the provincial government was functioning. This injunction has put the federal government on the spot, obliging it to either justify its continued existence – a particularly difficult job in the face of enormous evidence – or send it home. Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s appearance before the court on Friday without his having been summoned seemed to be a link in the chain of defence of the provincial government; for he maintained that the issue was being wrongly depicted. His later remarks to the media were also an attempt to prove the point. In his view, miscreants trying to give the impression that the FC personnel were committing acts of terror were using their uniform. The responsibility, though, was accepted by the Baloch Liberation Army. Further, according to him, only 36 persons were missing at the moment. He sought the court’s permission to give him hearing in camera. When asked by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to accompany him on a tour of the province to see the situation on the ground, he readily agreed. The Advocate-General’s observation that only people have the right to change the government was also made clearly in defence of the provincial government.

In the province itself, political manoeuvrings are at a high pitch. Speaker Aslam Bhootani has refused to call the Provincial Assembly to session that Chief Minister Aslam Raisani had desired, maintaining that he had asked the government to send in his views on the subject; as for him, the government had lost its constitutional authority after the court verdict. The PPP Balochistan chapter, as if it was timing its move with the Speaker’s action, suspended the membership of Mr Raisani from the party for three months on the ground that he was most of the time found in Islamabad and had failed to respond to two previous notices. Mr Raisani who is given to spending most of his time in Islamabad rather than at Quetta, the capital of the crisis-ridden province, has also spoken. He felt that no one had the power to suspend his membership and showed his readiness to defend himself with coalition partners before the Supreme Court. At the same time, as the court rejected Opposition Leader Sardar Muhammad Rind’s plea for bail, he, his son and four others were arrested on coming out of the court.

The messy scenario – the lawless elements on the rampage, causing disappearances, torture and deaths and targeted killings of minority sects; and political machinations – cannot be allowed to persist for long in the face of clear SC orders. The federal government has no choice but to act.