ISLAMABAD: Creation of the Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) in Punjab has left the police high and dry as they regard it only a parallel agency being manned by the retired army officers.The confusion comes at a time when the army’s counter-terrorism performance is already under question and CTF will also cost police its elite force.
Instead of investing on Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Punjab, established in 2010 with high-profile operations on its credit, CTD is being disbanded and replaced with CTF, a move being interpreted as an outcome of unabated rivalry between the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) and the District Management Group (DMG).
CTF will work under the home secretary, traditionally a DMG officer, without basic understanding of policing, let alone counter-terrorism.Resentment in the police has reached a boiling point. A meeting of police officers held Tuesday in Lahore echoed demands of radical reaction on this decision of the government as several DPOs who attended the meeting said they would stop discharging their duties.
IG Motorway Zulfiqar Cheema was quoted by TV channels as saying: “Will patwari now do the job of counter-terrorism also,” a reference to DMG officers that are assigned the task of raising revenue.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered raising CTF with a projected cost of Rs6 billion whereas CTD was being run on the budgetary allocation of Rs380 million only.While CTF has been envisioned as a force with no link with the Punjab Police, the corporals for CTF are being recruited and trained through the Punjab Police and Elite Training School, they say.
Nowhere in the world terrorism has effectively been curbed without the assistance of police force, they argue and quote a study of RAND, a US thank-tank, that has examined 268 terrorism organisations from 1968 onward.
In 43% of cases, joining the political process was the reason for the groups having given up terrorism, according to RAND’s research. “The next biggest reason was police and intelligence work resulting in the elimination of 40% of groups,” the research found. In 10% cases, the groups achieved victory in their originally espoused goals and in “only 7% of the cases, success was achieved due to military action.”
The police officers question the premise of recruiting retired army officers to run the CTF on two grounds: 1) the officers have already passed their prime and were not promoted in the army; and 2) compare the counter-terrorism performance of the army and the Punjab Police in the given resources.
They say CTD, now defunct, arrested terrorists in major cases like attacks on FIA building, Qadiyani mosques, Naval War College, Data Darbar and made significant breakthrough in investigations of attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Even intelligence about attack on GHQ was shared by CTD, then known as CID. It is another story that the army could not thwart this high profile attack on the basis of this intelligence. CTD has also built analytical capability (data, collation) based on its expertise developed during sectarian strife of 1990s in its role as CID, they say.
Creating separate organisations would result in more silos and different organisations with tunnel visions, police officers say. This is a critical weakness in the current counter-terrorism efforts.
Referring to the projected budget of Rs6 billion proposed for CTF compared to Rs380 million for CTD, the police officers say CTD would have performed much better had the resources being spent on CTF been invested on CTD that was evolved out of CID, a 125-year old agency. CID emerged as the most effective agency for arresting the wave of sectarian terrorism in 1997-98 and later played out well in its capacity as CTD, limited resources notwithstanding.
Instead of raising new organisations like CTF, the police officers say, the government should build the capacity of CTD by providing modern gadgetry, standardised recruitment/training, formation of intelligence analysis centre and latest weaponry.
Even if CTF is to be raised, it should not be done at the cost of CTD and both should work under the command of IG instead of putting the former under the supervision of home secretary having no experience of counter-terrorism, they say.