ISLAMABAD, July 15: The former Inspector General of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Police, Capt (retired) Usman Zakaria, said police did not have enough resources to accompany foreign expedition teams visiting the region.
“Following the Nanga Parbat incident, we sent a police team but after traveling half the distance, the members informed that they could go no further because of the high altitude and lack of oxygen. So we called them back,” he said.
This was stated during a briefing given to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan regarding the killing of nine foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat base camp on June 22. The proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mr Zakaria said it had become the nature of police officials to mint money from people. “If we send one or two officials to accompany the expedition teams for their security, the officials demand dollars from the foreigners and then come back after barely crossing the last village from where the mountains start,” he said.
However, apart from the lack of resources, poor coordination is another major factor affecting the performance of the police. Even the recently leaked Abbottabad Commission Report highlighted the lack of coordination and communication between various departments and state institutions.The former IGP said expedition teams got their permits from the ministry of interior and immediately went to the mountains without informing the local police.
“I have seen some permits. They do not mention that foreigners have to inform the local police on their way to the base camp. I expect that now a mechanism will be devised and teams would have to inform the police before and after their expedition,” he said.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said, “We have been fighting against terrorism for the past 10 years but after every such incident, law enforcement and intelligence agencies come up with the excuse that they were not expecting it. By now, we should be ready for the unexpected.”
He said that after the incident of Osama bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad, intelligence agencies had said they were not expecting the attack. “The same reason was given after the incidents of GHQ, PNS Mehran and Minhas Airbase attacks,” he added.
Chief Secretary Mohammad Younas Dagha informed the committee that there had been no precedent for the sort of incident that took place on June 22. However, all exit points had later been blocked because of which four people who were directly involved in the attack, and four others who were aware of it, were arrested.
Furthermore, he said that at the time of the incident, there were 450 foreign tourists in GB, but only 43 returned to Islamabad and even of those, 23 said they wanted to return to GB and were sent back via a special PIA flight.
Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan affairs, Shahid Ullah Baig, said there were eight peaks in the area and the army was deployed near seven of those. However, since Nanga Parbat was towards the west, the army was not present there.
Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan People’s Party said that the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NCTA) had not been established even though legislation had been carried out in this regard.
He added that after the incident, the federal government suspended the IG and the chief secretary which had severely demoralised the police force. “Both of them should be restored because they did not have the resources to stop such attacks,” he said. However, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Chaudhry Mohammad Barjees Tahir said no one had taken him into confidence before removing the IG and the chief secretary.
A member of the committee, Sughra Imam from the PPP, stressed upon the need for proper intelligence sharing between China and Pakistan. She said the Chinese who managed to escape the attack had informed the tour operator in China about the incident at midnight, but the Pakistani authorities came to know about it at 6am.
Head of National Crisis Management Cell Tariq Lodhi said security measures had been taken to avoid such incidents in the future.