Friday, 1 February 2013

The FC and Levies: Front-line in Pakistan's war

On the December 27th 2012, a force of over 200 militants stormed security check posts and killed several personnel before kidnapping 22 levies. Out of those twenty two men, twenty were killed and one died of subsequent wounds with only one survivor. On hearing the news of the death of her son, the Mother of one of the Levies died of a heart attack. In the ensuing days news was leaked that the levies would not be compensated on the same terms as police personnel. This caused a local campaign by The News which has led to the government to review that decision. This article was to help explain to both locals and outsiders who the main forces at the front line of the fight against militants are and the heavy and unacknowledged price they pay

Original title
Role of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in combating terrorism and militancy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA
By Syed Fida Hassan Shah

The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) are  no stranger to terrorism. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979,  (KP) and the adjoining seven tribal agencies known as (FATA) witnessed many terrorist acts in the form of bombing and target killing. Fortunately this phenomenon did not last long, nor did it spread to other parts of the country causing any serious disruption in law and order. In this context, when the United States attacked Afghanistan in 2001, few would have predicted that the deadly violence would engulf the whole country with devastating impacts.

Since 2006, Pakistan has been engaged in battling strong insurgency in (FATA) and many parts of (KP). An expanding terrorist campaign targeting Pakistan’s major cities is also linked to this insurgency. The growing number of attacks on sensitive military installations like GHQ, Mehran Base, Kamara Base and more recently attack on Peshawar Air Base underscores the dangerous nature of the crisis. Many innocent Pakistanis including members of LEAs (Law enforcement Agencies) have lost their lives in many suicide attacks across Pakistan. It is estimated that Pakistan has suffered more than 40,000 casualties in the war on terror so far.

Besides Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps, Police, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and Khasadar force also are engaged in counterinsurgency war against the militants in KP and FATA. In this article attempt will be made to highlight the sacrifices and preparedness of these LEAs in the war against the militants.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police

When the terrorist activities started in the province soon after 9/11, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police (KP Police), then called the Frontier Police, was totally unprepared for the emerging conflict. As the influence of militants spread from the adjoining tribal areas into settled districts of the province, local police found themselves confronting an unprecedented threat. Trained to apprehend common criminals, police officers were confronted with a large number of well-trained and heavily armed groups. The changing tactics and targets of the various terrorist groups posed a formidable challenge to a police force with limited resources, poor training, and inadequate equipment. The officers of KP police however, showed exemplary courage and bravery in fighting the faceless enemy. Officers right from the rank of constable up to the Inspector General were martyred in the line of duty. The following table will show the sacrifices of KP police.

Year Killed Injured
2007 62 172
2008 117 256
2009 149 360
2010 63 197
2011 138 256
2012 75 192
Total 604 1433

Many steps were taken by the provincial government to strengthen the capacity of KP police. In 2007, the KP Police faced severe personnel shortages, for which the government compensated by recruiting new officials and hiring individuals on a contract basis wherever possible. In 2007 the total strength of KP police was 39,147 including all ranks, which was increased to 69,867 in 2010. Similarly budgetary allocation was also increased substantially. New weapons and equipments were also purchased. Special police units like Elite Force, Quick Response Force (QRF), Bomb Disposal Unit and Special Police Force were formed. Compensation for the martyred and injured police officers was also raised quite substantially. Despite all these measures taken by the government police still faces many problems like shortage of manpower and vehicles, poor infrastructure and many logistic issues. Despite all the difficulties the officers and jawans of the KP police are performing their duties with unflinching commitment, to respond to the daunting challenge.

Frontier Constabulary
The Frontier Constabulary is a Federal Paramilitary Force which is largely drawn from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, but operates in all the provinces of Pakistan. Frontier Constablary was established by amalgamating Border Military Police (BMP) and Samana Rifles in 1913. Both of these were militia forces guarding the border between the then settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and tribal areas. Frontier Constabulary’s main function is to police the borders of KP and the tribal areas against tribal incursions, criminal gangs operating across the border and check the smuggling of contraband items.

Frontier Constabulary has also been in the forefront in counterinsurgency operation. Many jawans and officers have been martyred while fighting the militants including its brave commandant, the legendary Sifwat Ghayur. A total of 240 officers and jawans of Frontier Constabulary have so for been martyred since 2007.

Khasadars and Levies

Khasadars and Levies forces have also been performing their duties in FATA and Frontier Regions. Both these forces have also been on the increasing targets of the militants. Khasadari system was introduced in tribal areas by the British government in 1921. Khasadar force are raised, in each tribal agency, from various tribes in the agency on quota system fixed for Qaums (Tribes) who are responsible for maintenance of law and order in respective areas. They carry their own weapons but are paid by political authorities. They are appointed and working under control of Political Agent. The recruitment is made in the ratio of their tribal distribution which is known as 'Nikkat'.

The Khassadars are enlisted from amongst the tribes who are designated by the local Maliks, and enrolled for the purpose of guarding roads and providing safe passage to travelers. Their most important role is as a medium of communication, or a link, between the administration and the tribes. Khassadars provide their own weapons.

A khassadar is paid a salary by the government and his service is not pensionable. Due to lack of training, and a service structure or fringe benefits at par with other forces, they have a low level of motivation. In fact he also owes his allegiance to the Malik who recommended him for employment, and also the tribe because of the system of Nikat under which he got employed.

The Khassadars are mostly illiterate and poor. Their selection is based on nomination by the Maliks and obviously without a regard to merit. Every agency had its own rules and conventions for the Khassadar service. No induction or in-service training is imparted and every tribal agency has the Khassadari system.

There is another similar force under the command of the Political Agent, which is called Levies.The main difference between Khassadars and Levies is that the Khassadar is hereditary and the incumbents carry their own weapons for the duty, whereas Levies are provided weapons by the Government. They are recruited from amongst the indigenous tribes. Unlike Khasadar force, levy force is better trained.
Levies and khassadars, recruited on a tribal basis, fall under the federal government’s Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) control, and are appointed by the PA (political agent) who is also their commanding officer. While levies are provided small arms and limited ammunition, khassadars use their own weapons. Levies, who are marginally better armed, are similarly underpaid and inadequately trained. Functions, responsibilities and duties of Levies are almost the same as of Khasadars.

Like army and police many jawans of Levies and Khasadar forces have also offered supreme sacrifices in in the ongoing war on terror. But compared to police and other LEAs, the Levies and Khasadars are working under miserable conditions. While fighting the militants they are basically our second line of defense after Army and Frontier Corps. But quite unfortunately, they are poorly trained, ill-equipped and underpaid. In the army, police and FC, there is a proper system of compensation for all their officers killed or injured in the line of duty. But very unfortunately there is no such system in place for the Levies and Khasadar forces. They have no proper barracks and other facilities and are expected to serve under the most difficult and dangerous environment. Even our national media gives no importance to any news involving Levies or Khasadar forces. The recent case of the abduction and subsequent killing of 21 Levies personnel in the FR (Frontier Region) of Peshawar should have been an eye opener for the government and the political authorities. These poor fellows had no proper arms and ammunition to defend them against the attackers. Even the news of their abduction and subsequent killing was reported after a delay of 22 hours despite the fact that the area is located just 25 km way from the capital city Peshawar. Till now the government has not formalised any compensation for these martyrs.

Another problem faced by the Levies is that they perform their duties in Frontier Regions (FR) and Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) like Malakand Agency which come directly under provincial government. But their administrative and operational command is under the control of federal government through ministry of SAFRON. This creates dichotomy in their command structure. Secondly, Levies in each district or Agency needs a professional officer as their commandant as a Political Agent or DCO being a civilian may not be able to do justice with the job as commandant of these forces. If uniformed and professional officers are appointed as commandant of these forces, training and other needs of these forces can be looked after properly.

Law Enforcement Agencies, particularly the ones operating in FATA, have to be built up to a critical level for fighting the insurgency. They need to be provided better salaries and basic facilities, professional training, modern equipment and readily available forensic support. As the famous Indian freedom fighter Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit once said that, “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.”

-the writer belongs to Police Service of Pakistan. A contributor to http://www.qissa-khwani.com He tweets at @charnushah and can be reached at fidashah71@yahoo.com
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