BY J. J. Baloch
At 6.17 pm on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 it blasted at Charring cross, the heart of Lahore which is the heart of Pakistan and our hearts continue to bleed since it took thirteen precious lives, including two senior cops, Mr Ahmad Mubeen, DIG police and Mr Zahid Gondal, SSP Police who reached the place of incident to negotiating with protesters to clear main Mall Road traffic and to bring paralysed city life back to normalcy.
Following many incidents of similar nature of terrorist attacks, we the cops are grieved to the core on more than 3,700 lives of cops of different ranks from constable to Inspector General since 2002. We need to learn from both the life as well as the death of our fallen officers.
A haunting thought always touches our mind that this could have been me and my family when we come across any news of police officers laying their lives for public peace. Sometimes we feel honoured and wish for ourselves to lay down our lives for such a noble cause but very often most of us go sad, shed tears, feel insecure for our families and share the pain but it is not enough.
Only grieving changes nothing but rather offers a grave disservice to the all including fallen officers and their families, our own selves, our departments, and also to our people who we are paid to serve and who we are honoured by for our services and sacrifices. After the incidents like the one have taken place at charing cross Lahore in which our officers have fallen we, instead of grieving, should storm our brains as to what is important now for us as professionals!
As the cop community, it is important for us to feel sad, share the pain and be as much supportive as we can with the families of fallen officers. However, still more important and the best way to honour the fallen officer is to learn from them their life and their death as well. And our learning should be for saving more cops, more families and more people from falling into the hands of the people who define their inhumanity as their faith. Learning from deaths is as important for cops as it is learning from their life experiences.
Not Important is to watch the images and media reports on the shattered lives of the spouses, children, parents and families of the officers so targeted and so fallen. Still not Important is to point fingers at the mistakes of the fallen officers and to devise the ways of smartness. Neither are the commitments for revenge of colleagues so important in this context of continuous loss nor yet shifting responsibility to other stakeholders in peace would do!
In this context of Lahore tragedy it is very sad to have seen many voices pointing against district administration for not disallowing mob to gather at charing cross and for not being available to negotiate with the protesters, the political leadership for keeping police officers under tremendous pressure to work miracles or to face consequences, the police senior command to ensure compliance or pack up, media criticism of so-called security lapses, and judicial activism for avoiding the human rights abuses so caused due to use of coercive authorities to prevent such protests.
However, in Sehwan episode DPO and ASP/SDPO were summarily removed from their posts on the grounds of their failure to prevent the blast. It’s really very strange that we live in a country where our system punishes police for the sins of criminals and terrorists. If this is not the way as I am taking it, why same responsibility does not travel upward and why DIG, IG and for that matter whole political government is not held responsible where only SDPO and DPO are targetted. It is very heartening to note that no action was taken against the deputy commissioner who is in charge of health or hospital of sehwan city where no arrangement of any kind was available despite the fact that present CM Sindh has continuously been holding finance ministry of Sindh government during last 7 years or more.
Same is true in the case of sanitation and ambulance services which, too, is less relevant to police but police work in such emergencies as supporting mechanism. It was reported in media and on social media by some NGOs that the body parts of the victims were found in garbage piles and sewerage pools. Was this the job of the police? Yes, prevention was the part of police but not only of SDPO and DPO.
In terrorism, unlike in crime cases, many agencies work together as a team? Where was Special Branch and other intelligence agencies to issue an advanced specific warning about Sehwan attack? Is it not the failure of intelligence whereas police constables were at least seen in the CCTV footage of shrine checking the entrants but the suspect skipped his eye only due to rush. Not fair to police officers who faced government wrath.
Was this the job of the police? Yes, prevention was the part of police duty but had the local police been able to stop what the mighty armies sometimes fail to do, they would have done it at all costs in a similar way as police had stopped the terrorist in Charsada a few days back. Circumstances at Sehwan and Charsada were not similar. Had it been so the police present there at shrine would have stopped the bomber as they did last year in Shikarpur when two suicide bombers tried to enter into an Eidgah mosque by initially throwing a cracker but brave Shikarpur police, despite getting injured, did not allow the bomber to massacre innocent people. One terrorist killed and the other arrested injured.
Therefore, all police officers who were penalised in Sehwan episode might have done something exceptional, had they been informed beforehand by intelligence departments whose failure this incident decidedly was!
We being cops always feel that our life is between two equally dangerous ditches. An idea always haunts us and our dearest ones that our one leg is in the grave while other in jail. Both the criminal elements as well as law elements keep a watch on us, disbelieve us, watch us, target us, abuse us, punish us, hurt us and sometimes destroy us. This is state of utter disappointment and dismisses the motivation which is required for a good professional cop.
After Charing Cross blast, police stalwarts and some security experts are in hot debate as regards what should be done to save precious lives. Some believe that it is not advisable for senior police officers to expose themselves to explosive mobs because of many reasons. DIG traffic and SSP operations Lahore are said to have had run a serious risk of their lives amid serious threat alerts by doing something that they were not professionally required to do in deeper analysis of procedures. And unfortunately this was exactly what the most of the policemen do in Pakistan; otherwise, they are described inefficient, coward, and non-professional. The example of the dismissal of Muhammad Ali Nekokara when he, as SSP Islamabad, tried to deal with crowd situation in his own way is the most relevant example in this context. Malik Saad who was doing CCPO Peshawar was assassinated by a suicide bomber while he was monitoring a Muharram procession.
Many seniors believe that availability of senior command at processions, rallies, protestations, demonstrations, and similar other crowd situations must be reviewed in the perspective of threats issued by resuscitating and regrouping terrorist networks in Pakistan in the wake of our lacklustre approach towards across the board implementation of our National action plan, particularly discontinuing military courts, extension to Afghan refugees, action against non-state actors, growth of Islamic State in Pakistan in the wake of the return of Mujahedeen from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world and also diversion of global proxies of global powers such as USA and Russia from different parts of the world to Pakistan in post CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) scenario.
Brian Willis, a famous law enforcement educator/trainer and a full-time police officer at Calgary police Service Canada, aptly responses this important question for the police in this way: “Honour the past and invest in the Future”, a two-way approach.
For honouring the past, hardly anyone can disagree with Brian Willis views. He is of the opinion that it is important for us, as the police officers, to find the answer as to what caused the death of cops in certain circumstances, how, and why?
Brian says: “Examination does not involve the greatest lie in law enforcement, which always starts with the same words-“If I was there I would have …..” It involves a question “When I find myself in such situation, what would I most like to do? This simple question points a finger at you instead of on a fallen officer. ..What are you doing to ensure you will have a more desirable outcome? What are you doing to invest in your safety and well-being? What are you doing to train on your own?” Every cop can make his or her own security audit by finding answers to these very vital professional questions.
However, investing in the future involves both investing in “your future and investing in the future of your department”. How and where this investment should be made? For this, there is hardly any better way for the cops than to train, to learn, to apply, to share, to teach, and to preach the learning and experience so gained.
If you are not leader due to your rank but new situation always offers you a space to do and not to do something very decisive. You become your own leader and make the most of the circumstances to do something for you, for your profession and for your people. Accept responsibility for your fitness, skill, and training as you have sworn to serve and protect. Nothing can absolve you from such a responsibility.
What is important now? Government in power, opposition political parties, media, intelligentsia, and the public as a whole should honour the sacrifices made by the police officers in the line of duty in exactly the same way as it is done in the case of any other armed force of Pakistan and also invest in the future of police service as the highly professional organisation standing shoulder to shoulder with world’s best police services by building its capacity and resilience in the wake of new counterterrorism perspectives.
WRITER is student of policing science