WEB DESK: Following their tradition of passing the buck whenever things go wrong, politicians are blaming the country’s intelligence agencies for the terrorist attack on Quetta’s Civil Hospital wherein 72 innocent humans lost their lives although, according to the hospital’s Medical Superintendent, security at the hospital was nominal.
In this backdrop, it is worth asking whether security – policing and installing arms/explosives detection gadgets at all entry points of places visited by hundreds of citizens everyday – is the responsibility of district and provincial administrations or of the intelligence agencies. But for obvious reasons, the provincial governments won’t answer this question.
That the continued inadequacy of the police force, it’s being handicapped in many ways and, above all, it’s being politicised are the causes of security failures is routinely denied by the provincial governments; it reflects their concern over this grave issue. Proof: recommendations of the Police Reforms Commission-2002 were never implemented.
For years, the media highlighted these weaknesses but the slide in law enforcement capacity went on. The Army Public School Peshawar tragedy triggered the need for the National Action Plan (NAP). But, given the religious leaders’ opposition thereto and the prospects of winding-up of political parties’ militant wings (some having foreign backing), NAP wasn’t implemented in letter and spirit.
The religious and political leadership’s resistance to credible implementation of the NAP worsened the image of neutrality and the capacity of the civil law enforcers, which increased peoples’ distrust in them. To some observers, this malaise isn’t the result of fiscal constraints but a conscious effort aimed at ensuring that political interests weren’t compromised.
Ironically, in this backdrop, after the Quetta Civil Hospital tragedy, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, heading the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (coalition partner of the PML-N) claimed in the parliament that nefarious elements are on parole, courtesy our agencies and [for indulging this anti-state activity] those who sit on front seats in official ceremonies should be in jail.
According to Achakzai, blaming RAW and Mossad for terrorist acts in Baluchistan shouldn’t be used to cover-up the failures of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Is he ignorant (really, or by choice?) of the Kulbhushan affair and the disclosures Kulbhushan made about RAW’s networks in Baluchistan and Sindh? But he claims to know what the intelligence agencies are doing.
Achakzai isn’t alone in refusing to admit the harsh ground realities; did anyone hear a statement by our Prime Minister condemning the RAW network operating in Pakistan under the supervision Kulbhushan? How seriously was this violation of international law by India discussed at the diplomatic level and pursued with the UN for action?
Is it by sheer coincidence that the Quetta tragedy follows protests in Indian Occupied Kashmir wherein dozens were shot dead and thousands injured by the Indian army? Is the Indian Premier’s decision to “discuss” human rights issues in Balochistan and Azad Kashmir with expatriates from these regions living abroad also a mere coincidence?
Soon after the Quetta tragedy, while hearing a case concerning law and order in Karachi at the Supreme Court’s Karachi registry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan remarked that RAW and Taliban agents are being recruited in the guise of security guards, and directed IG Sindh to ensure special security of hospitals and places that large number of citizens visit every day.
Creation of private security companies owes itself largely to the banking sector because beginning the 1990s banks started out-sourcing this critical service. But despite growing incidents of security guards’ role in bank robberies, provincial administrations did not re-visit the terms and conditions subject to which private security agencies are set-up and licensed.
Outsourcing of premises security led to mushrooming of security agencies – a trend that is escalating by the day leading to formation of more private security agencies, many of them lacking the requisite professional credentials, and comprising of guards and supervisors with doubtful antecedents; proof thereof is involvement of their guards in bank robberies.
Despite all this, relevant provincial authorities failed to prescribe tougher conditions for security agencies ie fool-proof identification of the guards being recruited, verification of their past track record, confirmation of their not being linked to criminal outfits, their capacity for performing security duties, expertise in use of arms, and monitoring security via electronic surveillance devices. Although rising incidents of bank robberies involving bank guards are worsening Pakistan’s country risk perception, amazingly, financial services sector – far more conversant with the implications of worsening of this risk – isn’t bothered about containing it. Nor have the banking sector’s regulators reacted to the continued imprudent out-sourcing of bank security.
Last week, while being interviewed on a TV channel, the Chief Minister of Baluchistan very honestly and bravely admitted that the present state of the province – its under-development and poverty-driven crime and terrorism – are the outcomes of flawed governance blame for which lies with Baloch politicians who remained in power right from August 1947.
Put together, the failures to de-politicise, expand, train and properly equip the police force, and the virtual absence of regulation of the private security agencies on which business and industry began relying because the police force was never enough to provide them security, is hardly the setting wherein NAP can be implemented according to its mandate.
After the Quetta Civil Hospital tragedy, for the second time since that initiation of NAP, a disappointed CoAS was forced to express the view that “unless all prongs [federal and provincial regimes] deliver meaningfully and all inadequacies are addressed, remnants of terrorism would continue to simmer, and long-term peace and stability would remain a distant dream.”
In this backdrop and acting with the sense of responsibility that his status demands, in consultation with the corps commanders and DGs of ISI and MI the CoAS announced a country-wide combing operation (involving large-scale troop deployment) for busting terrorist sleeper cells and hideouts, ie, do what the provincial regimes were doing only ceremonially.
The disclosure about cancellation of over half a million unverifiable arms licences in Sindh exposes the concerns of these regimes for containing crime. NAP was necessitated by such administrative failures and linkage of the police force to many in-power politicians, but resistance of the Punjab and Sindh governments to an army-led combing operation may yet again block credible implementation of NAP.
Rana Sanaullah has already expressed his reservations over this military-led operation reflecting his approach to remedying the security threat due to which even on August 14, in the big cities of Pakistan Section 144 was imposed and mobile phone services were suspended. Isn’t it time the provincial governments stopped denying the undeniable – inadequacy of civil law enforcers, their limited capacities, and their politicisation – and started clearing this decades-long mess?
Source: Business Recorder