By Mansoor Jafar
6 August 2013
The Pakistani people have been moaning about American violations of their treasured sovereignty and the killing of Osama bin Laden on their soil by U.S. Navy Seals in the garrison city Abbottabad, northern Pakistan.
The Americans got away with killing Bin Laden, plus two or three of his companions. It was labelled as “treachery.” But in an assault far more brazen, the Taliban set free 250 highly dangerous prisoners from a jail last.
Ironically, respective state institutions, including every news channel in Pakistan, were seen to obsess about the meaningless presidential election, resulting in the election of a nominee whose main qualification is that he has no qualification.
Fight or Flight?
A couple of days ago, at the site of yet another Taliban attack on the garrison city Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the security personnel left heavy machine guns in bunkers to save their lives and took refuge in safe ditches located in the jail premises.
Even those who were on duty did not dare to stop the attackers. Perhaps they saw them carrying high definition video cameras to shoot this daring night venture for onward release to media.
No doubt, by turning their back to attackers the Dera Ismail Khan jail security personnel; they committed a breach of the solemn pledge made at the time of their joining the respective forces.
I have mixed feelings of compassion and fury concerning the “performance” of D.I. Khan Police. While I condemn the actions of the on-duty security personnel, I feel there is a need for a thorough investigation of the real cause of this “dreadful retreat.”
What were the real motives behind the disgraceful fall of security personnel during the Taliban jailbreak last week? An objective reality check is the only way to investigate the cause of appalling security failure.
It is an established fact that police, or for that matter, any other law enforcing agency delivers only under clear order and policy. Hesitation, doubt and uncertainty adversely affect the performance of any state institution.
The Imran Khan's Tehreek Insaf-led provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the jailbreak incident took place, currently seems indecisive about the status of the Taliban. Do they consider the Taliban as their irritated brothers, dismayed friends or enemies of state who are an open threat to the prevalent system? Does the KPK government consider the Taliban as abandoned elements fighting against the injustice of the system?
Replying to the volley of other identical questions, at media and discussion forums, Tehreek Insaf head, Imran Khan, reiterated a stereotypical answer saying that the: “Ongoing war on terror is not our fight, upon the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, we will initiate dialogue with Taliban fighters entrenched in Afghan mountains which will help redress their grievances.”
In this context, when a solider or an average officer pitches himself against the Taliban, he is bound to perceive them (the Taliban) as his future friend. He considers shot-at-sight call of his superior a politically motivated command.
He is uncertain as to whether his shooting at a Taliban fighter will earn him a medal for gallantry or invite the wrath of his bosses? In this situation, he is justified to decide whether he should invite the wrath of Taliban fighters by shooting at them.
Unfortunate and condemned security officials daily witness their comrades being killed at the hands of banned outfits. They regularly follow misleading media discussion deciding if the killing of a security official in the U.S. “war on terror” amounts to heavenly-destined martyrdom or if they are bound to go hell fire for killing their fellow Muslims?
Taking the Taliban "To Task"
If the Taliban are going to join the fabric of common society, then using security officials to fight against them is a futile activity. Above all, if the security officials are convinced that the Taliban are strong enough to drive all the way from Afghanistan to set free their jailed Jihadi comrades, then confronting such a furious force will be nothing short of committing suicide.
Undoubtedly, the government is spending a huge amount of money to ensure better policing in the country. I believe that the treatment of injured security personnel at state expense cannot embolden them to take the Taliban to task. Self-confidence and bravery are directly related to the decision-making of the political leadership.
Notwithstanding heavy political mandate in the province, if the KPK government is reluctant in keeping Washington's blue-eyed prisoner Dr. Shakeel Afridi in its jails, then it is not difficult to judge the impact on security personnel in the province. This attitude is sufficient to make them believe that the “jail breakers” are more powerful than those who are mandated to bring the outlaws to justice.
The only difference remains that the comrades of indecisive political figures are capable of silencing their critics in social and contemporary media outlets through hard-hitting propaganda.
However, no one is ready to defend the poor security personnel who are regularly pitched against the Taliban or entrusted to guard the high-value inmates in hazardous jails dotted across Pakistan.
It is a stark reality that sleuth agencies had given an intelligence tip-off about a potential attack on the D.I. Khan jail. Reports also speak about mock exercises which were carried out to ensure a successful counter-attack. Everything, other than the focus of political leadership, was in place. To me, it was grave mistake to entrust indisposed policemen, under inconsistent command, with the duty of guarding Taliban gangsters in the D.I. Khan jail.
Following the attack, no one is willing to take the responsibility of the failure. Those trying to sweep the political failure of their leadership and the apparent victory of Taliban under the carpet are ignorant and are more dangerous than the “defeated and cowardly” policemen.
Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad.