ISLAMABAD: The government has asked the army to provide two companies of soldiers to assist the police in ensuring security in the capital following the initiation of action against terrorist hideouts in North Waziristan, sources in the interior ministry, the capital’s administration and police told Dawn on Saturday.
The army and rangers personnel will have police powers and will be able to take more effective action to stop terrorists while assisting the city’s law enforcement agencies with intelligence gathering and launching targeted action against militants hiding in the capital and its suburbs.
According official sources, the soldiers will be deployed at pickets and other important installations, as well as being charged with protecting the Red Zone.
The decision was taken in separate meetings, including one with Rawalpindi Corps Commander Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday. In the meeting, Inspector General Aftab Cheema and Senior Superintendent of Police Mohammad Ali Nekukara asked the corps commander to provide two companies of soldiers.
Soldiers from two companies to man checkpoints, gather intel, take action against terrorists
A requisition asking for the deployment of two companies of the army’s 111 brigade, as well as five platoons of Rangers personnel, is expected to be issued by the deputy commissioner’s office soon.
Sources said that while the groundwork for this proposal had been completed, they were awaiting written directions from the interior ministry before proceedings with a formal request.
The troops would initially be deployed for three months, with the option to extend their stay if the administration felt it was necessary.
The military personnel would be empowered to book offenders under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) as well as for offences dealt with under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
The personnel would be empowered to raid or arrest terror suspects or retaliate against any attacks. They are likely to be deployed at security pickets on the outer cordon of the capital, 23 No.
Chungi in Tarnol, Pir Sohawa, Murree Road and Bhara Kahu, the Sihala-Rawat junction and Islamabad Chowk at Golra.
The capital has a total of 164 entry points, 45 of which are through metalled roads. Of these, security personnel are currently deployed on 20, while the other 25 are still unsecured. There are also over 100 dirt roads and paths which are not fully secured by security personnel.
In terms of intelligence sharing, a special cell would be set up with the help of the added personnel, who will also help weed out militants that may be hiding in the city, sources said.
But Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, who told Dawn on Thursday (May 22) that, “Such arrangements (military deployment in the capital) are part of the government’s precautionary measures,” did not stand by his statement when approached for comment on Saturday.
The information minister echoed the interior minister’s earlier statement on the subject, where he said that no such decision had been taken yet.
Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan People’s Party called on the government to end speculation over this issue and take parliament into confidence over the question of deploying the military in the capital city.
“If these reports are true, they imply a breakdown of civil administration in the capital,” he added.
Asad Umar, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf lawmaker from Islamabad, told Dawn that while he did not believe this was a viable long-term solution to the security problem, the army’s services could be employed to protect the city in the short run.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2014