ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan: Demoralized Force In KP – Analysis


By Research Desk, Institute for Conflict Management

On July 19, 2011, the Taliban released a video showing the execution of 16 Pakistani Policemen, captured during a raid on June 1, 2011, from the Upper Dir District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The video shows the Policemen lined up on a hillside, their hands tied behind their backs, standing in front of armed Taliban fighters wearing scarves to hide their faces. One of the fighters accuses the men of killing six children. The fighters then open fire, and after this systematically shoot each of the Policemen in the head.

Upper Dir District Police Officer (DPO) Mir Qasim Khan put the number of victims in the video at 18, disclosing further that they were Policemen and paramilitary Police personnel captured on June 1: “It was a pre-dawn attack and that’s why most of them are not wearing uniforms.” Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas added that the Policemen were captured when the Taliban staged an attack from Afghanistan in Pakistan’s Upper Dir District.

Within a span of one month, the Police in the restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa faced three suicide attacks. 10 Policemen were killed and another five sustained injuries when two Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suicide bombers, one of them a burqa (veil)-clad woman, blew themselves up inside a Police Station in Kolachi Town of Dera Ismail Khan District on June 25, 2011. On May 26, 2011, a double-cabin pickup van packed with 400 to 450 kilograms of explosive material struck the barrier outside the Hangu Police Station, killing 32 persons and injuring 60. A day earlier, a TTP suicide bomber had driven a car packed with explosives into a CID Police Station at University Road in Peshawar, killing nine Policemen and injuring 29.


Claiming responsibility for the June 25 attack, a TTP spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said it was partly in revenge for the US raid that killed al Qaeda ‘chief’ Osama bin Laden and added that “this shows how much we hate Pakistani security institutions’’. Ahsan had claimed responsibility for the May 25 attack as well, declaring, “We accept responsibility for this attack. Soon you will see bigger attacks. Revenge for Osama can’t be satisfied just with small attacks.”

A January 6, 2011, report quoting Naushad Khan, Superintendent of Police (SP), stated that more than 615 Police personnel had been killed during the last seven years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Around 90 Policemen were killed and 227 sustained injuries in different attacks across the province in 2010,” the report added. Further, almost one among every five Policemen who laid down their lives fighting terrorists during this period was an officer.

According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, at least 417 Police personnel were killed and another 1,042 sustained injuries, since January 1, 2005.

Attacks on Police in KP: 2005-2011

Policemen Killed
Policemen Injured
Suicide attacks on Police
Source: Source: SATP, *Data till July 24, 2011

There has, clearly, been a steady escalation since 2007, the year of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) operation in Islamabad. While the number of incidents and fatalities increased dramatically in 2008, there was significant decline in 2009 and 2010. 2011 has, once again, witnessed a spike in attacks on the Police, with at least 85 personnel having lost their lives in 25 attacks. The fatalities have included several senior officers, prominent among whom are:

August 4, 2010: Additional Inspector General of Police Safwat Ghayur was killed in a suicide attack outside his office in Peshawar.

April 19, 2010: Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Gulfat Hussain was killed in a suicide attack in Qissa Khawani area of Peshawar.

February 11, 2010: District Police Officer (DPO) Mohammad Iqbal Marwat was killed in twin bomb blasts outside a Police training centre in Bannu District.

June 5, 2009: Farid Hussain Bangash, DSP, Mardan (Rural), was killed in a gun-battle when militants attacked a Buner-bound joint Police and Frontier Constabulary (FC) convoy at Natian in Mardan District.

April 27, 2009: DSP Asmatullah Khattak and his bodyguards were killed on their way to Lakki Marwat from Bannu, when his van struck a remote controlled bomb on the Lakki-Tajazai Road in Lakki Marwat.

February 28, 2008: DSP Lakki Marwat, Javed Iqbal, was killed in a bomb blast in southern Lakki Marwat. Later, Iqbal’s funeral procession was attacked on March 1, 2008, in his native Swat, in Mingora, by a suicide bomber, killing over 60 people, including his son and another Police officer.

January 27, 2007: DIG Malik Mohammad Saad and DSP Khan Raziq were killed in a suicide attack on a Muharram procession in Peshawar.

December 18, 2006: Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Bannu, Abid Ali, was killed along with his driver, while coming from Bannu to Peshawar, near Matani town on Kohat Road.

It is significant that the decline in incidents as well as Police fatalities in the years 2009 and 2010 was the result of heavy military presence and operations in the Province during this period. The Swat chapter of the TTP had established control in the Swat Valley through 2008 and early 2009, compelling the Pakistan establishment to launch a major military operation to flush out militants. Operation Black Thunderstorm was launched by the military on April 26, 2009, with the aim of retaking Buner, Lower Dir, Swat and Shangla Districts. While Lower Dir was targeted in the first phase, the second phase of the operation started on April 28 in Buner. The military confirmed that some 87 militants and four soldiers were killed in fighting in the District between April 28 and May 4. On May 5, the third phase of the operation, named Rah-e-Rast (Path to Truth) started, with airborne troops storming the militant-held Swat Valley. Operation Rah-e-Rast ended on June 14, 2009, with Pakistani troops consolidating their position in the four Districts and going after the remaining pockets of resistance. In more than a month of fighting, by June 15, 2009, 106 soldiers and 1,040 militants were killed. Sporadic fighting continued, raising the death toll among the militants to 1,935 by July 15, 2009. However, many militants fled into Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and across the border into Afghanistan. Crucially, however, no top terrorist leader was killed in the entire operation, raising the questions about the “success and credibility of the operation”.

Reports indicate that as many as 45,000 regular Army personnel participated in operation Black Thunderstorm. With a semblance of ‘peace restored’, the 37th division of the Pakistan Army started moving out of Swat on February 1, 2011, leaving the 19th division behind to control the entire District.

The Army claimed that areas occupied by the terrorists had been ‘liberated fully’ by 2010, even as incidents of ‘urban terrorism’ escalated. The responsibility of fighting terrorism was shifted to the Police Force. The Police in KP has a sanctioned strength of 78,320. With a provincial population of about 22 million, this yields a fairly healthy ratio of 356 policemen per 100,000 population, and a policeman to area ratio of 1.05 policemen per square kilometer. In addition, there are 82 platoons of FC stationed in the Province. Commandant FC, Akbar Khan Hoti, has requested an additional 124 platoons in KP to combat crime and terrorism, and to secure volatile areas, once the military pulls out. “The FC cannot combat militancy with its present strength. After the Army completes its withdrawal, more FC soldiers are required to take their place,” Hoti informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on the Interior on May 25, 2011.

According to the White Paper 2010-11 of the Finance Department, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Budgetary allocations to the Police Department in KP have risen dramatically over the years, from PKR 3,693 million in 2005-06, to 21,042 million in 2010-11. Indeed, the 2010-11 allocation was 117 per cent higher than the allocation for the preceding year. The strength of the Force has also increased substantially, recording a growth of over 41 per cent over just two years, FY 2008-2009 and 2009-10. The White Paper notes, further, “Sizeable amount has been spent on improvement of mobility, communication, arms and ammunition…” In addition, according to KP Minister for Finance Muhammad Humayun Khan the Province also expected to receive PKR 15.2 billion as a special grant for the Police from the Federal Government for the war against terrorism.

KP’s Police network is spread over 250 Police Stations, 343 Police Posts, 365 patrolling posts, 23 Police Lines and 3 Training Schools. A liberal package of incentives is now on offer, and the White Paper notes, “The salaries of Police have… been doubled and it is expected that it would bolster the morale of the existing police personnel and encourage others to join the force. Compensation for Police Shuhada (martyrs) has been increased from Rs. (PKR) 500,000 to Rs. 3,000,000.”

Most Police Stations in the Province are protected with safety walls and fortifications, though they remain vulnerable to suicide bombings and rocket fire. Alarmed by the recent attacks, the Police in the provincial capital, Peshawar, have initiated further fortifications, even as Police Stations increasingly become ‘no go’ areas for the common people.

Despite this, Police morale remains at rock bottom. Suicide bombings and brutal demonstrative executions have sapped the will to fight and even the top Police leadership has tended to express increasing hopelessness. On April 22, 2011, Malik Naveed Khan, the KP Police Chief, stated, “a foreign journalist once rightly termed this situation the ‘Hug of Death’” and argued that facing a suicide bomber when you know he can detonate his explosives at any time is not an easy job. Police Spokesman Jalal Khan observed, on June 27, 2011, “To stop entry of suicide bombers was a difficult task and one would have to put one’s life at stake for the purpose.”

Despite substantial investments in the Police, the will and orientation to fight the terrorists are conspicuous in their absence. Worse, the Army’s ‘successful operations’ in the Province do not appear to have done extraordinary damage to the extremists’ capabilities, forcing no more than a temporary relocation outside its borders. As the militants return in strength to KP, the spiral of violence can only escalate, with a disheartened Police Force offering ineffective resistance to a rising terrorist rampage.

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SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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