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Pakistan Police: The unsung heroes


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A big fat thank you is in order. In fact 200 million thank yous would be more appropriate. With millions of Shias marching on the streets in Pakistan, and with hundreds of suicide bombers, mostly radicalised Pushtun militants, ready to target Shias, Pakistan’s police and intelligence agencies have done a commendable job of limiting death and destruction during Muharram.

Earlier this week Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, offered 200 million rupees to anyone offering details of the whereabouts of the Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. While Mr. Malik has offered reward for information about the Taliban leadership, it is the police in Pakistan who have offered their lives while battling terrorism across the country. Over the years, several police have died while guarding mosques and processions. During the first 10 days of Muharram, the police guarded processions and imambargahs, and managed barricades, thus keeping the suicide bombers at bay.

This is not to trivialise the murder of over 30-plus Shias who died in the first 10 days of Muharram in target suicide bombings in Pakistan.  The victims’ families and the communities that they came from have indeed suffered tremendous grief and irreparable loss. But with literally millions on the march on the streets in Pakistan it is next to impossible to have no loss of life when the Taliban militants have vowed to attack and kill Shias.

It is common in Pakistan to blame the police for all ills of the society. Many naively believe that Pakistan will be transformed if the Police were to be free of corruption. Stories of police excesses often surface that attract further criticism. The higher judiciary also calls in senior police officers to the Court where the officers face strong criticism by the senior members of the bench. While the police are criticised for their failure, I wonder why they are not praised when the police excel in achieving the nearly impossible goals set by the public and the politicians.

Take the processions in Muharram as an example. During the first 10 days of Muharram, millions of Shias are on the streets marching during day and night. There are literally hundreds of entry points to cities in Pakistan, which makes it impossible to prevent the militants from entering Pakistan’s major cities. At the same time, some militants are already based in cities and hence, monitoring their movements is even harder because they do not cross the security parameters established around the cities. In such circumstances, the only protection between those marching in the processions and the suicide bombers are the police.

On the 10th of Muharram in Rawalpindi, the police had established three cordons around the processions where everyone crossing the parameter was searched by the police and their identity cards were checked and recorded. Those crossing the pickets had to walk hundreds of meters before they were able to reach the processions. The police and a large number of Shia volunteers were the barrier between the processions and the would-be suicide bombers. The hard work by the police and the civilian intelligence agencies, who kept the usual suspects of all sectarian persuasions in check, prevented massive loss of life during Muharram.

While we grieve the loss of life of civilians and those from Pakistan’s armed forces, we have not been as sympathetic to the sacrifices of hundreds of police who have been brutally murdered by the Taliban in the past few years. Targeted attacks by the militants have caused the death of hundreds of police in Pakistan, but no one is willing to recognise their sacrifice or sing their praise.

Based out of the tribal areas of Pakistan, the Taliban are able to attack targets in Pakistan’s large urban centers. In October, the militants attacked and killed six police, including a senior superintendent of police Kurshid Khan, in Matani near Peshawar. Earlier in July, masked gunmen in Lahore killed nine police cadets, who were on training in Lahore from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban’s spokesman with a 200 million rupees bounty, claimed responsibility for attacking the cadets. In March 2009, the Taliban, then led by Baitullah Mehsud attacked the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore killing 12 police.

The police are not random victims of  militant violence in Pakistan. Often the Taliban have raided police check posts and abducted police whom they have killed in cold blood. The grisly footage released by the Taliban in July 2011 captured the assassination of 15 policemen who were lined up with their hands tied behind their back. A Taliban Mullah, with his face covered, declared in Pushto that the Police were “the enemies of Allah's religion and have left Islam. Allah orders to kill such people." Moments later a firing squad shoots the 15 policemen who were abducted earlier by the Taliban in a raid in Dir.

Given how terrorism has evolved in urban Pakistan it is likely that the police, and not the armed forces, will be able to curb this menace. Unlike the armed forces, whose training is based on protecting the borders while being on a lookout for external threats, the police instead are trained to, and are experienced in, coping with the threats from within. It is rather odd to see that the establishment in Pakistan has equipped the armed forces to deal with the external threats; it has kept the police ill-equipped for decades even when the nation has started to implode under the threats posed by the militants, who were born and raised in Pakistan.

It is the time to recognise that Pakistan’s enemies lie within. If we continue to scapegoat and blame foreign elements, we will continue to prepare against external threats. What is needed is to bolster Pakistan’s internal defence mechanisms. This would require us to invest in police, civil defence, and civilian intelligence agencies.


Murtaza Haider, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. He can be reached by email at


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Murtaza Haider is a Toronto-based academic and the director of

He tweets @regionomics

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (31) Closed

Ali Tatari. Nov 28, 2012 11:07pm
I totally agree with Dr. Murtaza. We have always taken Pakistani Police for granted that they are corrupt and mismanaged but in the current situation they are our first line of defense. I propose a day in the name of all police officers who have given their lives to protect 1000 other lives.
Ashher Siddiqui Nov 28, 2012 11:02pm
Heartiest thanks to Police for putting their lives in front line against terrorism
karim Nov 29, 2012 07:34pm
They are all from KP.
US CENTCOM Nov 29, 2012 07:36pm
We commend the role of Pakistani authorities against terrorism and the sacrifices they have made in this fight against an elusive enemy. We have worked closely with the Pakistani authorities and provided them with training and tools to fight our common enemy. A training workshop on IEDs and bomb disposal was held in Washington DC in October while recently Karachi
Aamir Nov 28, 2012 10:44pm
Yes, while Pak Army is busy creating more LeJs, Police is scarifying their lives to protect civilians from their wrath. Salute to these heros
Sameera Nov 29, 2012 04:32am
so true ........ countless policemen have been killed and no mention of thier acts of bravery anywhere
MZA Nov 29, 2012 08:13am
Shame on people who do not condemn attacks on our Police Jawans! A very timely and thoughtful article. Heaps of praise and status of Martyrdom for our Police deaths against fighting criminals. Why is the Military death called Martyrdom and a Police death discriminated. Only Allah will decide the status of a true Martyr, however He has given us clear guidance about Martyrdom. I am very thankful to the writer to bring out such an important issue. The courage and innocence of these Police Jawans is unbeatable. While the Military is fortified and well protected, these Police Jawans brave the streets each day without resources. Is it only because some of them working in influential places are deeply corrupt and deprive the common Jawans of their rightful means to enforce the law honestly? Give me example of how many common people with access to such corrupt practices are willing to live with their lives on their palms each day - none I am sure. So, please stop this bashing of our great nation, and start supporting and encouraging the good deeds and the sacrifices of the Police on equal terms as any other Agency of this country. Thank you Police Forces of Pakistan for shielding us everyday!
Dilawer Nov 29, 2012 07:20am
No sympathy for Pakistani Police in my heart.
irfan husain Nov 29, 2012 04:43am
I agree entirely: I wish we were as generous with our praise of our police as we are with our criticism.
Shakil Nov 28, 2012 10:29pm
Are you kidding me? I enjoy reading your articels, but I respectfully disagree with your assessment and over the top praise of if not the most, certainly one of the most corrupt institution in Pakistan. Providing the protection is their job, nothing unusual about it. Since they have done such a poor job of performing their duties on 99% of the times, when every once in a blue moon they perform to expectations, should it become a big deal? Come on, be realistic.
MBA Nov 29, 2012 08:15am
Law and Order forces in our country have two extremely different faces - like Pakistan itself. Corruption, Terror and Mismanagement on one side; Sacrifices and honour on the other side. They are part of Pakistan - in good and in evil. We should not forget to praise their sacrifices and we should keep in mind their miserable salaries.
Seedoo Nov 29, 2012 02:02pm
I am glad that you wrote this article. Thank you.
Ali Nov 28, 2012 09:59pm
Well written! The Police needs praise for all its efforts and sacrifises more than any other institution in Pakistan for facing terrorism!
Imran A. Nov 28, 2012 09:51pm
Beautiful article! Well done in highlighting the hour of the need.
Imran Nov 29, 2012 12:14pm
I concur with the remarks of Ali Ayub below. Do not label pastuns as suicide bombers. Get your stats right. Them terrorist suicide bombers have no cast creed or race. They are absolute mislead bunch of people who think they will go to heaven for killing innocent unarmed people. I wish if they knew what they are up to. Anyways not straying from the topic yes the sacrifices made by Police and the Army will not be forgotten. Police have their own role to play and the Army has its own there are certain limitations otherwise they would have emerged as on single force. It is to clarify the remarks made below that if resources given they would outshine the Army. There is no race for out shining each other. But the logic is you can't give a tank or an artillery gun to police. The best you can is to prepare them in terms of training and specialized equipment as we see in many developed countries. The list is long but I will restrict my self to only this aspect. Long Live Pakistan Army & Police Long Live Pakistan.
Naeem Nov 28, 2012 08:34pm
The old system is so corrupted that all the good has been brought by a new start wehter it is Elite force or Motorway police, put anything in that Thana culture and it goes to waste... so should we just start a new police force, neighbourhood by neighbourhood Law enforcement should be handed to new kind of police, new recruits, new uniform everything new and phase out the old corrupted lot.
nadeem Nov 29, 2012 09:48am
Not just constables of police department lay down their lives but the upper hierarchy too scarified their live.they include Ghaur,Malak Saad and Abid Ali.
Naved Nov 29, 2012 05:53am
No doubt police have given many sacrifices in connection with war on terror. Everyone should value their performance in this regard. But at the same time it is also a fact that criminal minded elements are present in police force. Corruption is also prevalent. Police reform and cleansing is essential to make their impression better in the society.
Ali Hassan Ayub Nov 29, 2012 04:46am
I'm Shiia and Pashtun. You conveniently forgot that taleban and sectarian groups is not at all a Pashtun phenomenon; many of the fighters hail from the rural Punjab region as well as foreignors (Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs especially) learn your facts first before pointing your fingers on us. and yes --- Inshallah the police and Army sacrifices would never be forgotten or go in vain. God bless Pakistan.
Raheel Adnan Nov 29, 2012 08:40am
I do believe, if Police is given a budget (or resources) equal to Pakistan Army, it would outshine Army's performance. This isn't about mere salary raise but arm facilities, infrastructure, living standards, training and technique etc. Need of the hour is cut in Army resources and empowering the masses.
Aprophet False Nov 29, 2012 01:59am
I salute these brave public servants
Cyrus Howell Nov 28, 2012 03:35pm
"...If we continue to scapegoat and blame foreign elements, we will continue to prepare against external threats. What is needed is to bolster Pakistan
Cyrus Howell Nov 28, 2012 03:30pm
Isn't it obvious the police in Pakistan need the army's help? In other countries the police are reenforced on the streets by the army when they need help. The army got the police into this mess they need to get them out of it. Not only has the civilian government dropped the ball, they can't find the ball to take it in for the score. So police should die because the politicians are embarrassed at their own failure?
G.A. Nov 28, 2012 06:27pm
Agree with you. I think if civilians volunteer to help their local police stations with food, medicines and money then that would go a long way in building trust between the two. As the police too would have a stake in the community's welfare.
Akram Nov 28, 2012 07:59pm
good article, absolutely agree these brave Jawans should be recognised and their compatriots must be given the right tools to crush the terrorists.
hamza Nov 28, 2012 03:31pm
well i certainly like this column but one thing that i noticed at once was the militants mostly radicalized pashtoon militants.. best thing would be to avoid it.... cheers
karim Nov 28, 2012 06:50pm
I fully support the author and this article. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the police are the ONLY organization who have sincerely and honestly fought against terrorists and paid a very bloody and steep price. I salute Police for their sacrifices in protecting Pakistanis.
Mr.T Nov 28, 2012 04:53pm
We criticized almost everyone in Pakistan but those are good we never appreciate them specially when they alive. Very well written and post. WORLD EASIEST THING TO DO IS TO CRITICIZE AND HARDEST TO APPRECIATE SOMEONE / SOMETHING. In whole or develop world police is the only help for citizens. If we are at war in the country then the budget should be given to police is same as we give to our army, coz they are also fight the war in the country...
Noel Nov 29, 2012 08:52am
offering their lives is part of their Job.
Shaduram Nov 28, 2012 03:09pm
Great job Mr. Haider. Policing in the sub continent must rate among the most difficult jobs on that piece of earth. These poor souls take on and do traffic beat in scorching heat and searing cold; they are subject to constant abuse-mostly by the politicians. What can mre humiliating than for a police officer who ranks first academically throughout his life, achieves the ultimate credential of pak or indian civil service, gets to be ACP or DSP and then have stand and salute an illiterate or semi literate so called politician who is generally very corrupt, arrogant and abusive, disrespectful and a boor. And this officer is required to provide security too. In my eyes our policemen are worth weight in gold. They most certainly deserve all the respect we can give and more
AHN's Nov 28, 2012 04:29pm
Totally agree . We need to invest in our civil LEA's. Police should be top priority as in the long term good policing is the only solution of our security woes.