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Fragile security in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: A challenge to PTI govt

Javed Aziz Khan

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government installed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a result of the May 11 general election was probably not aware of the gravity of the law and order in the province and this could be a reason the new rulers have yet to take any significant measure to tackle the issue that has already claimed the lives of two newly elected lawmakers of the province.

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been once again under intensified attacks for the last two weeks. Not only army convoys and patrolling parties of the police are coming under attack in Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province has already lost two MPAs in such attacks within three weeks of their oath-taking.

The recent suicide attack at a mosque inside a seminary of the Shia sect on the GT Road, a failed attempt by foreigners to kidnap a top orthopedic surgeon in Peshawar, two attacks on army convoys in the recent weeks in Matani and many other high-profile incidents in the last one month speak volumes about the level of threat in the provincial capital.

There are intelligence reports of more violent attacks in the province, especially in the provincial capital, after which the security of the government buildings and top officials has been further enhanced.

In such circumstances, the security of Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has become a challenge for the police because he is honoring his commitment of not living at the Chief Minister’s House in the well-guarded zone in the Peshawar Cantonment.

There are reports that he may soon shift to another building in the well-protected zone if not to the CM’s House for security reasons. Some provincial ministers have already shifted to the seemingly safer bungalows on the Fort Road and close to the official residences of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor and chief minister. The assassination of two MPAs within no time has sent them a strong message.

Under the rule of the Awami National Party-led government from 2008 to 2013, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly lost three of its members in suicide attacks and bombings. They included the then senior minister and a senior leader of the nationalist Awami National Party Bashir Ahmad Bilour. Bilour was killed in a suicide attack along with eight other people near Qissa Khwani bazaar in December last year when he was leaving after speaking at a public meeting.

The two other lawmakers killed in such attacks during the five-year ANP-rule included MPA from Peshawar Alamzeb Khan and a lawmaker from Swat Dr Shamsher Ali. There were many attempts on the lives of other lawmakers who escaped unhurt or sustained injuries. Some of these lawmakers had to sacrifice their loved ones in such attacks.

This was the time when the province was suffering from the worst law and order situation and the militants had not only established parallel administration in the Malakand division but were threatening many urban towns and cities of the province, including Peshawar.

Farid KhanThe authorities claim the situation has improved to a great extent. However, the death of the two MPAs in targeted attacks presents an entirely different picture. One of the slain MPAs was Farid Khan, a man of modest means who claimed having Rs100 in his pocket when he decided to contest the polls. The other was one of the richest MPAs, Imran Khan Mohmand.

Imran MohmandFarid Khan was killed in an ambush along with his driver in Hangu on June 3 while Imran Mohmand lost his life in a suicide attack at a funeral in Shergarh in Mardan district on June 18.

Suicide attacks on mosques, funerals and other public meetings are not something new and the PTI government cannot be blamed for it. However, there were hopes that things would change with the installation of the new government, which had claimed that it would prepare a plan to address the issues confronting the country within 90 days.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister last week presided over a high-level meeting regarding the law and order situation and some key decisions were taken. However, the government will have to take steps to improve the intelligence network and coordination of police with all civilian and military intelligence agencies as well as securing boundaries of the province with the tribal areas to stop the militants from entering the settled districts.

Besides, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will have to ensure the provision of scanners and explosives detectors to the cops at entry points of all the districts and towns to block the entry of bombers and explosives-laden vehicles.

By establishing effective and well-equipped barricades at the entry points, the government would be able to remove all the other barriers including those set up by the army inside the Peshawar Cantonment that are bothering the public.

Also, the government will have to bring back seasoned and reputed officers of the Police Service of Pakistan from other provinces. The government will have to make sure that the posting of the deputy inspectors general and the district police officers and station house officers is made on merit.

By initiating action against the relevant deputy inspector general, district police officer and station house officer in case of a major terrorism bid, the force can be further activated against the networks operating in the cities.

The law and order situation could improve if honest and efficient cops are posted to head regions, districts and police stations as they will go after the terrorists and criminals instead of bothering the public and minting money.

Courtesy: The News International, June 24, 2013.

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