Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Garrison province

By AP

The Insecurity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ...

They are murdered, tied up in sacks and dumped in Peshawar, Nowshera or Charsadda. Over the last one month, 30 such dead bodies have been found. The police say they do not know the killers. I doubt if they want to know either. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police and by extension the provincial government choose not to speak when the very powerful secret service agencies might be involved. However when the recent wave of murders became too intense, the Peshawar High Court had to take notice. Ironically, the gunny-bag murders became even more frequent as if in defiance.

Swat-Two other militants die in the Armys custody in Swat
14/09/2012 07:13
The High Court was also forced to take suo motu action on another equally shocking chain of dead bodies coming out of jails run by Pakistan Army in Swat. According to one report 128 people have died in Pakistan Army custody in Swat. The reason given for every death every time is preposterous: ‘The prisoner died of illness’. Equally upsetting is the fact that none of those bodies were given post mortem inspection.

Meanwhile, we have witnessed two major bomb attacks (in Mattani and University Town) in Peshawar which killed and injured dozens and traumatized hundreds of families. A visit to a psychiatric clinic in Peshawar revealed the most senior doctor there has patients lined up for the next two months. In the meantime the bombing of schools in Swabi, Shabqadar and Peshawar has become a daily news item. One has noticed that people are expressing much less shock over the bombing of schools than they used to perhaps due to the sheer frequency of these attacks now. All this is happening when the Pakistan Army already controls the security policy of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, even inside the urban centres. The cantonment areas especially in Peshawar, Kohat and Bannu are largely inaccessible to the public. While throughout the rest of KP (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) province, people are frequently subjected to delays and questioning at checkposts. Travelling south on the National Highway you are stopped at least half a dozen times before reaching Peshawar from Bannu. In KP ‘the man of the house’ is the soldier, all traffic must stop when a convoy of the forces passes. I remember one biker shouting to me in response to my surprise at the aggressive behavior of soldiers with the public in Bannu, ‘You have to listen when the Army tells you to stop’. When I saw a convoy of the armed forces driving too fast through a busy market area in Hangu, a man told me, ‘That’s what they do’.

It is not just in Miranshah that the markets close before the evening call for prayers. It is the same in towns of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Insecurity is a fact of life for the average person and most people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa do not have the luxury of staying out late like you still can in the rest of the country.

The Pakistan Army operation in Swat has been touted as a success on the national and international levels. Keeping aside questions regarding Pakistan Army’s motives behind allowing the Taliban takeover of Swat first and then taking action, the Army has been running the city of Swat like they run a cantonment since the ‘conquest’ of the tourist resort. May I point out that the Pakistan Army already holds strong presence in Abbottabad, another tourist destination in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But despite all its control over this province, has the Pakistan Army stopped the militants from attacking us? Have the intelligence agencies been effective in thwarting deadly bomb attacks like the ones in a market in Mattani and Kohat Bus Stand? The answer is a lurid red ‘negative'. With respect to security, we need to point out that like the Pakistan People’s Party on the national level, the Pashtun ANP (Awami National Party) has given away administrative authority in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa too easily to the military interest group within Pakistan. The party has failed to rein in or at the least direct the security forces according to its own inherited vision of the future for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the local understanding of Pashtun security issues.

We need to tell the ANP-led government to ‘wake up and inspect the blood stains’ but forensics is where its biggest weakness lies. The police department is not only underequipped but remains severely understaffed. The city of Peshawar provides only 1 police officer for every 520 people with Lahore doing the same for every 291. The ‘police-to-population ratio’ in Lahore of course is not a ratio to aspire to because that too is too imbalanced. In the violence-ravaged city of Peshawar the ratio is nowhere near sufficiency. KP police does not have properly trained and sufficient manpower to gather intelligence and conduct investigation. Both areas need tremendous improvement. The competence of the provincial police was seriously questioned all over the world when hundreds of prisoners escaped from the Bannu jail. Also, can we ask the KP police if they have captured a single school bomber so far? Their answer may well be negative because there is a lot of mystery around this issue too. The KP government have not utilized the civilian peace militias to their better capacity as well. Instead it has managed to make the chief of Adezai lashkar Dilawar Khan and his men quit in anger. The Adezai peace force is now split because of lack of support from the province and the result is renewed insurgency in the outskirts of Peshawar. On the judicial front, the provincial government must support the judicial activism of the Peshawar High Court and help spread this wave down to lower levels of the justice system coupled with administrative support.

For Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to protect itself against the Taliban (and their mysterious backers), it has to become more assertive in regards to Pakistan’s security policy inside the province and at the same time aggressively enhance the capabilities of the police. With no pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan, the Pakistani establishment is likely to continue interfering in that country’s internal affairs using Pashtun-inhabited areas on this side of the Durand Line. Pakistan’s policy of extending strategic reach into Afghanistan has devastated many lives in FATA and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Therefore, we need a security approach of our own in this province. A distinct policy that ensures better protection for ourselves and at the same time puts pressure on the federal government to change its manner of playing the Great Game.

With a stronger more efficient security system of our own, we will not only be able to better protect the province against enemies in every disguise but also one day help protect FATA as well through a merger with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The writer is a regular contributor to Qissa Khwani he tweets under @AzadPashtun
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