The easy availability of soft targets for terrorists to commit atrocities is because mere lip-service was given to re-organizing and conditioning the civilian law enforcement agencies (LEAs) for conducting asymmetric warfare. In the immediate aftermath of a deadly event our response is quite good, as time passes this translates into ad hoc and half-hearted measures. Our leaders’ rhetoric and grandstanding thereafter meant mostly for public consumption and photo-ops. Despite the depletion of their resources as well as freedom of space and movement by Pakistan Army’s successful counter-insurgency in Swat and FATA, more recently in North Waziristan, the terrorists, with inadvertent help from our media, are using the strategy and tactics of unconventional warfare to keep our populace terrified.
Three very important points in formulating the “National Action Plan”, viz (1) de-weaponization of our cities (2) correct utilization and husbanding of our available resources and (3) regulating of private security companies (the citizen’s second line of protection) were taken out for extraneous reasons. No town or city in the world permits people to carry weapons only except in Pakistan. The proliferation of weapons in our urban areas is alarming, random checking of gunmen in civilian clothes carrying illegal arms, mostly prohibited bore automatics, is an exercise in futility. Influentials have them released almost immediately along with their weapons. Religious extremists like Lal Masjid’s Abdul Aziz flaunt the laws quite openly despite all our political rhetoric.
De-weaponization must be enforced today. No one out of the uniform of the LEAs should carry weapons. Citizens do need static guards for protection, but out of uniform only at the premises. Guards of private security companies doing escort duty, properly verified and having undergone adequate training must have written permission from the police station nearest to their Head Office/Branch Office. All escorts/bodyguards must be in the uniform of a LEA or a private security company. Having police powers in Karachi, the Rangers not taking due cognizance and enforcing the law is severe dereliction of duty.
Exiting a popular restaurant in Karachi recently it took us some time to get through the traffic jam caused by the dozens of police mobiles and guards, both in uniform and civilian clothes, brandishing all sorts of prohibited bore automatic weapons. Other than a Provincial Minister, who can well afford private protection, the others making a fashion statement were political notables, family members and friends, etc of the ruling elite. Without proper training guards will not exercise fire discipline, this lack of fire control can lead to a real tragedy.
Of about 33000 policemen employed presently by Karachi police, a credible source says that 3000 (equivalent to more than a motorized infantry brigade plus) in a special elite unit allotted for the protection of our political elite, family and friends, etc are highly paid (about Rs. 100,000 or about $1000 per constable all under 35), a cool Rs. 3.5 billion in salaries alone if true. On that scale what should we pay our soldiers fighting night and day in Swat and FATA? About 7800 guards are allocated for non-police protection duties, including Ministers, judges, etc while 2000 do guard duties at police offices, residences, etc. The balance 20000 remaining are spread over 109 police stations with about 2000 police mobiles. With leave, sickness, etc police stations average only 40-45 personnel available per shift, how can they man 15 mobiles per police station? Yet monthly about Rs. 100,000 is spent on fuel. One does not have to be an Einstein to figure out why the tracking device and the PSO fuel cards have been done away. Will someone please carry out a comprehensive audit of how our precious manpower and resources meant to fight terrorism is criminally being diverted to personal use or to fill own pockets?
With mobility not available to the investigating officer for site visit of the crime scene, hearsay evidence is being presented rather than on the spot actual statements. This weakened case is more liable than not to be thrown out of court because of the existing inadequacies/deficiencies in the already arcane Evidence Act 1872 (revised by the Qanoon-e-Shahadat 1984). Police morale is at a low ebb in Sindh because of rampant politicization, inherent corruption and vast difference in salaries, etc. Maybe not to the same extent, the same is endemic in Punjab also. Police performance has improved in the past year relatively in KPK, in Balochistan the induction of a large number of serving Army officers, particularly in running the training institutions, have made the situation somewhat better.
Funds being earmarked for the counter-terrorism effort will be swallowed up by corruption. A person can be killed in two major ways, viz (1) the active manner by being physically attacked or (2) the passive way when security is weakened either deliberately by (a) diversion of security personnel and/or equipment or (b) by siphoning of these funds meant for that. Stealing from the counter-terrorism effort weakens the organization and effectiveness of the LEAs, those thieves are guilty of aiding and abetting terrorists, as guilty of killing our children in Peshawar as the terrorists. Accountability across the board must prosecute such thieves. They should be tried by military courts whoever they are.
While the Army did right in encouraging consensus among the politicians for countering terrorism, thereafter it has been a predictable mess. The buck having been half-heartedly passed to the Army, they will now face the blame for inaction. To quote Richard Nixon, “decisions should not be debated till death”. The pun is intended and tragic, indecision and vacillation over the years resulted in the murder of our children by the most brutal terrorists that this world has seen.
Those with the status quo mindset fixated on making money hide behind words and paper of the Constitution to violate the spirit of the law at will. There is a time to play “Constitution” and there is a time to face reality. Reality is in the form of the dead bodies of our children in Peshawar. Our media did their best helping the terrorists terrify our parents from sending their children to school. On Jan 12 Pakistan’s children across the nation gave their courageous answer to the terrorists. When we have such brave parents and brave children, the terrorists have no future in our country. Those with an ostrich mentality can never confront that truth.
The writer is a Pakistan-based defense and political analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org