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Are We Prepared For Counter Terrorism

10 March, 2014

By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)


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"I say with full responsibility that Islamabad is a safe and secure city", so declared the Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan in a press conference and ironically, only three days later the terrorists devastated his hollow claim by striking at the District Courts Complex Islamabad killing at least 11 people, including an Additional Sessions Judge Rafaqat Ahmed Awan and a 25 year old young lady lawyer Fiza apart from wounding 25 others some seriously with three lawyers also critically wounded amongst them.

The one sided gun and grenade carnage lasted for nearly 45 minutes and the killers were at leisure to enter any office, court room or chamber – at places even asking the hapless victims to recite Kalima before killing them! Apparently no serious effort seems to have been made by the Police to stop the killing spree of the terrorists who made their escape good in the vehicles they had come to the courts. Strangely, there are conflicting reports about the exact number of the terrorists that played havoc at the courts. This is what the Honourable Interior Minister had to say of the incident in the National Assembly. He said that there was a huge difference between the intelligence provided by intelligence agencies and the police.

According to the police two men entered a side lane of the district courts where they first fired into the air and then shot everyone who came their way. On the other hand, the intelligence agencies informed him that three men entered the premises; all had Kalashnikovs while the two of them wore suicide jackets also who blew themselves up while the third one ran away. However, according to an initial report of the police and intelligence agencies there were four armed men who entered the courts complex and two suicide attacks took place. Firing broke out after the blasts and the other two attackers fled the scene. What a confusion and what an intelligence shemozzle?! A force of 60 policemen are said to be deputed for the security of the Islamabad courts, out of which 47 were present on the day of occurrence.

However, only one is reported to have fired at the terrorists and that too without any effect. Most others are alleged to have had defective weapons. Some policemen confided to the news reporters that they had orders not to open fire at their own. There were no CCTV cameras around, which had been incidentally ordered by the previous CJ Iftikhar Ch. about a year ago to cover all the courts premises. Surprisingly, they have been installed so promptly within two days of the incident! Where have these cameras come from? Anybody's guess! One thing is for sure that these could not been possibly procured and installed too at such a short notice unless all government procurement rules, regulations and procedures were flouted. The Secretary Interior informed the apex court that a police contingent was rushed to the scene of occurrence in 7 to 10 minutes from the nearby Margalla Police Station, which was scoffed at by the honourable court with the remarks that had they arrived that quickly the terrorists could not have done what they did.

Now the question arises that were these 60 policemen or the contingent rushed from the nearby police station trained in any way to counter a well planned and executed terrorist suicidal attack or were they simply there just as a "show of force"?

Were they to act (react) individually on their own or had they been organized and divided into various groups, sections and platoons etc. each with a specific task assigned to it? Did they have their specific 'Stations' to occupy during the operation, such as some vantage or high points affording good visibility and cover from terrorist fire or were they just to run around in the open exposing themselves fully to the enemy fire? Did they have any means of communications (wireless sets, Walkie/Talkies etc.) between themselves for effective Command and Control? Did they have any body armour (bullet proof vests) for their protection? Was there ever any exercise or rehearsal carried out against a mock terrorist attack? In short did they know what to do and how to do it? If not, then how do we expect such an untrained and ill-equipped force to counter any terrorist attack effectively? They will simply act like the cannon fodder and for that only their senior officers are to be blamed. There is an old saying, "The greatest disloyalty a commander can do to his men is to launch them into a battle without proper training for it".

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