SP Dawar’s murder and Islamabad’s internal security apparatus

By Umer Farooq

SP Tahir Khan Dawar’s mysterious kidnapping and murder recently sent shock-waves throughout the country. The incident suggested how easy it was to kidnap someone, take them to Afghanistan and later kill them. After all, this was what happened to SP Tahir Dawar, whose body was found in Afghanistan after he was kidnapped from Islamabad last month. The incident also raised many questions on the state security apparatus.

Tahir Dawar’s  service record clearly indicated that he was fully committed towards fighting terror, wherever he was posted. Also, a recently viral video of him clearly showed him talking about foreign and hostile intelligence agencies and their role in Pakistan’s destabilisation. Even official statements coming out of Islamabad and Rawalpindi clearly show that Tahir Dawar’s murder was seen as the “handiwork of anti-Pakistan hostile forces operating in the region.”

However one has to admit that initial response from our ruling elite, both civilian and military, was not satisfactory as various diversions were used by government spokespersons. It was also said that the issue of SP Tahir Dawar would be taken up with Afghanistan on the diplomatic level. Moreover, in the aftermath of the incident, Afghanistan has also been asked to cooperate in managing the border and allow fencing of the Pak-Afghan border.

However, no one has yet made a mention of the failure of state machinery – intelligence agencies, police, para-military forces and other forces – that has Islamabad in its grips. It is said that thousands of policemen are on active duty in the city. Adding to that, there are more than 2000 security cameras installed on all the important points in the city. However, the PTI government recently claimed that many of these cameras are not functioning properly.

The other side of the story is that the Pakistani state is facing a complicated internal security situation; where burgeoning urbanization and massive influx of population in urban centres is making it hard for the police force to control the situation in bigger cities. Moreover, the Pakistani security apparatus is not omnipresent, and hence cannot patrol all nooks and corners of the country, especially the 2500-km Afghan border.

Similarly it will also be unwise to solely blame the Afghan government or any part of the Afghan state apparatus for the murder of Tahir Dawar. In our region, machinations on the part of militant and extremist groups to cause mistrust between regional states by carrying out a terror attacks is not completely unheard of. Tahir Dawar’s murder could also be categorised one such intrigue on the part any of the militant group operating in the region.

If Afghanistan, directly or indirectly, takes part in such an activity, it also risks losing Pakistan’s support in the all-important peace talks with the Taliban.  However, some fingers are being pointed towards Kabul in Islamabad. It is believed that someone from the Afghan security apparatus was also part of the operation, as implied by a senior military official.  However, pointing fingers towards “outsiders” mean that we might be ignoring our own internal security lapses.

Few years back, I interviewed a senior police officer in Islamabad on the rising crime rate in the city. He was of that a majority of the Islamabad police was only good for tackling minor crimes. “I mean majority of Islamabad police force can only deal with and investigate crimes like theft, robbery and car lifting”, he said. He, however, qualified his statement by saying that what he meant by “investigation” was that the policemen could register an FIR and write daily reports in police register about any particular crime. Tackling terrorism, militancy and other crimes were beyond their capacity.

Part of the problem was the meagre resources allocated to policing and security. Moreover, the low socio-economic status of lower ranking police officers, who have to face the bullets in the field, was also to blame. These problems have further contributed towards lack of effective training and motivation of our policemen in the line of fire. On the other hand, when compared to the military, the army’s motivation in its fight against terrorism is the product of a higher social status, sophisticated training and state of the art weaponry.

Hence, even with a major shift on security from external to internal borders, the state has done little to shift financial resources towards internal policing. Pakistan continued to spend on weaponry that was meant to fight external threats. However, internally, our police continue to rely on old and obsolete weaponry. Therefore, unless the state finally pays attention to correcting the loopholes in our internal security mechanisms, unfortunate incidents like that of SP Dawar’s murder will always threaten our internal security and national harmony.


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