Particularly in light of the attacks at Bannu Prison, steps should have been taken to build High Security Prisons, and in order to build one, there are many desirable locations to meet the needs of one.
It certainly lacked the wit and unruffled panache of Tim Robbins from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, but it also lacked the undaunted resilience of Wentworth Miller from the popular series ‘Prison Break’. The early hours of 30th July, 2013 were not so peculiar for what it had brought for the provincial law enforcement agencies and the country’s armed forces in Dera Ismail Khan. The brazen attack by miscreant elements of TTP on DI Khan’s Central Jail brought another episode of chagrin, anguish and fear for the community and the nation at large. The jail breakout left the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa flummoxed, which was also indifferent – in the first place – to put together its act in light of the information passed on by the intelligence agencies.
The jail breakout was one of the massive attacks since the Bannu Jail Break by the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban last year. The attack on DI Khan’s prison left 12 dead, while as many as 243 prisoners fled, ensuing the city in a three day curfew. The overrun prison was built during the epoch of colonial raj, more than 100 years from now, a fact adding to the suspicion if the structure had the strength to meet or stand the firepower of the terrorists. Thus, raising the question in the first place, why the preceding provincial and federal governments (including the present ones) did not contemplate the question of placing the convicted terrorists out of the radius of influence of the other terrorists, at least in prisons that could have stood impregnable to such attacks? However, the unfortunate dilemma that followed the attack was the inability of the federal and provincial governments to come up with a coordination mechanism to address such crisis-related scenarios. Neither did it generate a debate between the two tiers of government to explore a course of action on how to prevent future threats – by devising a coordinated effort to exercise joint-intervention over the identified intelligence, and nip the evil in the bud so as to not only spare predicament but also explore avenues to ensure a sustainable environment of law and order.
But on a startling note, the KPK government has yet to appoint an Interior Minister, and the Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak stands either indivisible or perhaps wishes to hold the powers to himself; however, in either case, the responsibility for what occurred lies with the CM Pervaiz Khattak. Furthermore, the process through which to hold the CM accountable and answerable to the public is still incomplete. Among the myriad of Parliamentary Standing Committees of the Provincial Assembly of KPK (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), there is not a single one which is solely dedicated to the Security & Law Enforcement Affairs, which is a requirement of the highest priority, particularly when a province has been embroiled in a decade long conflict and has been worst affected by the imminent threat of terrorism in the post 9/11 world. Thus, prior formation of one could have served to be at the disposal of the KPK Provincial Assembly, to take questions of negligence on part of the executives into cognizance and if any measures were undertaken to redress them.
Particularly by having the CM summoned before the committee, not only would it have ensured the consolidation of democratic practices, but also a culture of public accountability over a pivotal issue of security, law and order, especially one that relates to the wellbeing of people not only in KPK but the entire Pakistan. This desired development should have also subjected CM Khattak to disclose his government’s policy towards terrorism and how it prioritizes the issue? .
Moreover, the Federal Government is not spared from receiving the credit where it is due. Rather than deciding upon the pivotal issue of convicted terrorists’ presence in prisons which fell in areas either under the implicit or direct influence of operational terrorist networks, particularly in the backdrop of the last year’s attacks on the Bannu Prison, where almost 300-400 inmates escaped, the Federal Government, too, along with the Provincial one, slacked in carrying out a prospicient appraisal, prior to and after the intelligence was passed on to them. However, not only did the two fail to process the information but also to act upon it, by neither moving the convicted militants to unidentified locations nor maximizing the security of the area under threat in congruence with relevant preemptive security measures.