June issue 2004
The Enemy Within
The screening system for recruitment into the police force came under scrutiny recently when investigators uncovered the involvement of police personnel in the attack on President General Pervez Musharraf’s motorcade, as well as in various sectarian attacks that killed dozens of people this year. The latest disclosures have not only shaken the administration to the core, but have compelled it to initiate background checks for police officials all over the country.
“Given that cadres linked to Al-Qaeda will try to benefit from the loopholes in the country’s security system, it has become obligatory, after the latest disclosures, to screen people for their affiliations before recruitment to the country’s civilian security set-up,” said a senior official in the Karachi police. In addition, the credentials of fresh recruits are also under investigation. Infiltration of cadres belonging to terrorist networks can become a deadly threat, specially since it is the civilian force that ensures security for VIP movement and is responsible for security at diplomatic missions.
Evidence of the involvement of a junior police officer was discovered after two suicide bombers tried to ram their vans into President Musharraf’s motorcade in Rawalpindi on December 25, 2003.
Earlier, a police constable had been implicated in the kidnapping of the Wall Street Journal’s South-Asia bureau chief Daniel Pearl some two years ago. The constable has already been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Investigations into the assassination attempt against General Musharraf revealed that the two suicide bombers involved were tipped off that the president was about to pass by through a mobile telephone call made by a head constable of the Special Branch police.
According to these findings, one suspect sped away from the service station where the attackers were stationed after receiving two phone calls, one after the other. According to an investigator, after taking the second phone call, he rammed his vehicle, packed with 65 pounds of explosives, into the general’s motorcade, killing 15 people and injuring 46.
Investigators found that the attempt on Musharraf’s life was financed and organised by Al-Qaeda with the assistance of local militant groups linked to Bin Laden’s terrorist network. Information gleaned from people who were arrested, including the police head constable, revealed that Abu Faraj, a Libyan national, was the one who initiated the attack on Musharraf.
In a recent interview, President Musharraf revealed that some junior level officers of the Pakistan army and air force were also involved in the twin suicide attacks on his life. He said all those involved have been arrested and would be court-martialled.
Investigators have found that a suicide bomber in the Shia mosque incident on May 7 in Karachi was a young trainee police constable. At least 21 Shiite worshippers and an apparent suicide bomber were killed and over 100 injured when a powerful bomb exploded in the Hyderi Mosque, situated within the premises of the historic Sindh Madrassatul-Islam in Mithadar, during the Friday congregation.
The explosion was so powerful that ceiling fans and fixtures melted and the walls were pockmarked with shrapnel and splattered blood. Bits of flesh stuck to the 40-foot high roof of the mosque and pools of blood lay all around as rescue workers tended to the wounded.
The police force came under suspicion after a policeman’s badge was found among the bodies at the site of the explosion. The man’s body had disintegrated under the impact of explosives strapped to it, leaving just the badge intact. At the same time, it was discovered that Akbar Khan Niazi, a constable originally from Mianwali, had been absent from the police training college in Baldia Town for two days.
Sources said literature from banned religious outfits, mainly from Jaish Mohammad, of which he was reportedly an activist, was found in his house. The police raided the house in Baghdadi Karachi, where the 24-year-old Akbar Khan lived with his parents and a brother.
Quoting the suspected bomber’s wife, an investigator said Niazi was obsessed with martyrdom while waging jihad against infidels. “Just after our marriage, he had told me he wanted to be a martyr,” the investigator said, quoting Niazi’s wife. Another investigator, quoting his neighbours, said Naizi had quarrelled with Shia neighbours during Muharram.
Investigations also revealed he had fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan before joining the police in 2002. Niazi had, in fact, joined the police with the express purpose of serving as an informer for his group.
Sources said that four of Niazi’s close associates had also been detained for interrogation. The police is still searching for two of his associates in the police who had trained at the Saeedabad centre and were posted at different stations.
The investigation into a suicide bombing in Quetta revealed the involvement of yet another police official. Ghulam Haider, a police constable in Quetta, was accused of an attack on a Shiite procession that left 48 people, including six policemen dead, in the month of March this year.
The blast in Quetta was linked to the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, regarded as Pakistan’s fiercest Sunni extremist outfit. These extremist organisations target westerners living in Pakistan and officials involved in the war against terrorism, as well as Shiite Muslims.
According to Inspector-General police, Balochistan, Shoaib Suddle, Haider apparently attended secret meetings of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi where the terrorist strike was planned. Suddle said DNA tests and investigations revealed that the two men who had plotted and carried out the suicide attack in Quetta were members of the outlawed militant group.
“The accused were hiding out and getting training in Afghanistan. It is clear that an organisation opposing the Shia community is involved and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has already accepted responsibility for the attacks,” he said. The police had arrested Ghulam Haider, for allegedly allowing the attackers to use his house to plan the attack.
Suddle said intelligence agencies had recovered a compact disc in which two people were shown saying that their people had attacked an imambargah in Quetta on July 4, 2003, where about 50 people were killed and 60 injured. “Now we will meet our colleagues in heaven,” the IG quoted them as saying.
According to the IG, this film was recorded at the house of a police official who had admitted, during interrogation, that he had arranged meetings of top LJ leaders at his residence for planning terrorist activities. The two suicide bombers were identified as Abdul Nabi and Hidayatullah. Both bombers were residents of Nasirabad district, the home district of Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali.
Experts on security contend that given the fact that jihadi culture had official patronage before 9/11, it would not be surprising if other individuals in the country’s security force were found to have links with terrorist organisations.