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The Lesser Khakis

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In the aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jail break, Pakhtunkhwa’s minister for Revenue and Estate, Ali Amin Khan Gandapur visited the jail. Talking to reporters he expressed his frustration with both the army and police for being unable to thwart this attack.

He began by pointing out that despite the presence of two brigades in D.I.Khan cantonment, the army did not engage the terrorists. On this, the minister decently expressed some “tahafuzaat” (reservations).

But then he turned his attention towards the police, and out come accolades such as “Nikamay”, “Nikhatu”, and “Buzdil”. The good minister seemed disgusted with the fact that only 5 policemen were martyred. As body counts of “at least 50 if not 100” are decent estimates of bravery.

This disgust for the police and respectful grumbles for army is something not particular to Mr. Gandapur. It reflects the mindset of this nation. From political talk shows to comedy stage shows, castigation and ridicule of our police is the norm.

Those justifying this discrimination, do it by declaring Police to be corrupt, and therefore less respectable than army. But scandals like NLC refute the myth of an incorruptible army. Furthermore, our three military dictatorships can be accredited with most if not all of the problems we face today. Effects of Police bribery seems puny when compared with this.

But blaming the army as a whole is deemed offensive, because an institution should not be blamed for the deeds of some individuals. After all, Zia ul Haq and Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed were two completely different people. One was a traitor, while the other a martyr.

And I agree, while no institution should be above accountability, generalizations based on uniforms are unfair. Our army is composed of far too many patriots than those who exploit the leverage associated with their uniform. The ultimate proof of their patriotism is a willingness to embrace martyrdom and a long list of those who already have.

But then how is our police any different? Has it not offered its own martyrs? Pakhtunkhwa’s Police, alone has a list of more than 1000 in the last 10 years, add to it those from other provinces and you have many more.

Police constables across Pakistan man check points knowing very well that the next driver might be a suicide bomber. Many of us today owe our lives to a split second decision of some brave police martyr who chose country over life. How is this display of patriotism any different from that of the soldiers who man our borders?

Names like Malik Saad Shaheed, Sifwat Ghayur Shaheed, Fayyaz Ahmad Sumbal Shaheed and many others are no less in stature than names like Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, Sawar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed, and Sher Khan Shaheed. Both groups were the sons of this soil, who died with their boots on and presented Pakistan with the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, there is no Noor Jehan to sing for the martyrs of our Police and no national day to celebrate their sacrifice.

On the 8th of August a bombing in Balochistan wiped out some of its top police officials, an attack which in its magnitude seems similar to the one on Malik Saad Shaheed that decimated the top brass of Pakhtunkhwa police, a loss from which the province is yet to recover.

But Pakistan, as a whole, did not care on that blood soaked eve. Instead what came to the fore was the face of Mufti Muneeb and the joys of eating vermicelli. The headline news on PTV at 10 pm began with the Eid announcement, followed by the PM getting a briefing on the LoC situation and then came the news about the 38 martyrs of Quetta. Private news channels were no different.

Any self-respecting nation would have flown its flag half-mast to honor this sacrifice. Instead these martyrs were honored with the cancellation of PM’s “Eid Milan party”, and that alone was deemed as sufficient.

Are we so blind to realize that these men were targeted because of their uniform, a uniform they donned to defend this thankless mob of 180 million? But, forget the rest of Pakistan, even Quetta reverberated with joyous aerial firing on the eve of this massacre.

The aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jailbreak has also been marred by the same bias that underestimates the abilities and courage of our police. Its analysis usually starts with the Taliban arrival at the gates of the jail, ignoring their journey from Waziristan to D.I.Khan and back. By beginning from the gates of the jail, this version conveniently cites “low morale”, “cowardice” and a lack of training as probable reasons of failure. All of which implicate the police.

While there is no doubt that police morale has been lowered due to the inane policies of the current KP government, and that it can definitely do with better equipment and training. But using these excuses for the D.I.Khan incident is a bit of a stretch.

The terrorists originated from Waziristan and went back there unchallenged. If cowardice and low morale is to explain police reluctance to engage, then the same should explain the reluctance at several army checkpoints as well as that of the two brigades present in DI Khan cantt.

It does not make sense to say that thousands of uniformed men from both the police and army had a simultaneous and sudden attack of cowardice. It is possible that these men might have been ordered to stand down, and it is essential that this possibility be investigated. Making a scapegoat of the police will only demoralize them further.

Nations honor and celebrate their martyrs. It is one of those things that differentiates a nation from a mob. This Eid, Pakistan acted like a mob, a shameless and thankless mob. It is high time that we start acting like a nation because acting like one is essential for surviving as one.

 Published in The News on 15th of August 2013, under the title “Police: how many should die?”

Written by Imran Khan

August 15, 2013 at 5:02 am

Killing Karachi

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For the past few years, the good people of Karachi have been hunted down by the dozens and that too on a regular basis. The lines are mostly drawn on the basis of ethnicity; till July during this year the break up of the victims of these killings show that, 48% of them were Pashtuns, while 33% were Urdu-speakers.  A joint investigative report of Sindh Police, Special Branch, IB, ISI, Rangers and the Interior Ministry, that came out in May this year, blames political parties for this situation but names only the MQM, a blame that MQM has denied categorically. But while the blame game goes on, what is more worrisome is the overall cost of this unrest.

The economic costs are obvious; the city of Karachi accounts for around 20% of Pakistan’s GDP. A recent study released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (2008) declared Karachi to be the biggest urban economy within Pakistan with an estimated GDP of $78 Billion for 2008, which was almost twice that of Lahore. Besides being the central hub of trade and finance, Karachi also accounts for a majority of our rural to urban migrations, bestowing it with a highly motivated labor force. Given these facts, it won’t be wrong to infer that in terms of the costs to the National Economy, the paralysis of Karachi means much more than the paralysis of any other part of Pakistan.

There are political costs as well; a recent report by PEW Research shows that in Pakistan the approval ratings for the Taliban have gone up from 10% in 2009 to 15% this year. It is no secret that on the political front the threat of Talibanisation has been confronted solely by Pakistan’s liberal parties. The impact of this confrontation is reflected in their electoral strongholds where; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh show a taliban approval of 7% and 5% respectively, compared to the 22% approval for the Taliban in Punjab. Continued infighting between the liberal half of Pakistan’s political spectrum is likely to have a direct bearing upon their efforts in countering the ideological onslaught of the Taliban.

Given the convergence in the political viewpoints of PPP, MQM and ANP, this conflict in Karachi can hardly be termed an ideological one. It is basically a turf war that is being perpetuated by a lack of policing and an excess of weaponry, all of which is being facilitated by political patronage. The immediate response should be to de-weaponise Karachi and apprehend the culprits behind the killings. As the Police seemingly does not have the capacity, the Army needs to be utilized.

But given the situation, the response of the Government is simply bewildering; apparently more “can be done” by using the existing civilian apparatus. If this is the case, then what exactly was the Sindh Government waiting for till now? The Shershah massacre is much smaller in scale compared to the killing sprees before it, if the Government is implying that it could do more after those incidents and didn’t, then this negligence is criminal and demands resignations rather than smug appearances on press conferences. But if the Government has actually exhausted its civilian security resources, as indicated by the MQM as well as ANP and confirmed by Federal Minister Nabeel Gabol, then it is high time to call in the Army, because the cost of waiting is in terms of human lives.

Utilizing the Army is not only a valid option for our elected Government, it is also the most effective one. Amazingly, to many, such an intervention seems the same as a military takeover and provides a “we told you so” moment for many supporters of military dictatorship. But the “subtle” difference is that the Army in this case would not be called to run the day to day affairs of Karachi, it would be called upon for its soldiering ability, an ability in which we have invested more than our capacity, and an ability which the Government has every right to rely upon. This was done in Swat, and the same is now required in Karachi and for that matter – urgently.

There are also objections to the proposal of de-weaponising Karachi. This resistance is coming from the MQM; the party that has repeatedly pointed out the “gun culture” of the Pashtuns as a source of friction, surprisingly also believes that the right to bear arms is essential for deterrence. In any case, the fact of the matter is that the death of police officials and that of political leaders accompanied by armed guards, shows that even carrying weapons doesn’t necessarily make a difference. Furthermore, most of the victims usually belong to the lower income groups, and for people who barely survive on a daily wage, affording guns and bullets is a difficult if not impossible task.

According to Police sources, 90% of these killings were carried out using handguns, furthermore the illegal practice of stamping the same license number on multiple weapons is also said to be widespread in Karachi. Given these facts, it is obvious that the weapon most commonly used for deterrence is also the one causing most of the damage and that licensing is no guarantee of lawful use. Therefore, given the intensity of the situation, de-weaponisation of Karachi should be the immediate goal of any efforts undertaken to address this problem.

With this year’s deaths by target killings surpassing those by suicide bombings, and the post-Shershah round of violence already claiming 4 lives, the PPP Government needs to start worrying about numbers other than just those surrounding no confidence motions.

Appeared in Pakistan Today on the 26th of October 2010

Written by Imran Khan

November 11, 2010 at 6:11 pm

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