The Punjab counter-terrorism department has expressed concern over Rawalpindi police’s lack of interest in keeping a vigil on members of banned organisations, especially those released from different jails.

Under section IV of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, persons charged with terror activities have to inform the respective police before leaving their hometowns and upon return. Such individuals, after their release from jail, are also bound to provide a surety bond to the police for good behaviour and peaceful conduct.

Sources said intelligence agencies had already asked Rawalpindi City Police Officer (CPO) Azhar Hameed Khokhar and the district police officers of Attock, Jhelum and Chakwal to keep a close watch on individuals who had been on government’s watch-list and booked under the ATA. However, the police even failed to obtain any undertaking from them. A report sent to the CPO Rawalpindi by the counter-terrorism department expressed the home department’s concern over the police failure to obtain the undertaking from 19 activists of banned outfits. These individuals never cared about any legal action against them and were accused of delivering hate speeches to stir up sectarianism.

The sources said 12 other activists of banned organisations kept under category IV of the ATA were missing from their areas. It is feared that they have gone to the tribal areas and joined banned militants there. Out of the 12 suspects, nine belonged to the district of Attock, two were from Rawalpindi and one from Chakwal.

The intelligence agencies believed that the nine individuals found missing from Attock have gone to Waziristan. Their names and whereabouts were also provided to the police to monitor their activities.

The chief of the counter-terrorism department also warned that under the ATA 1997, the district police officer and the CPO concerned were responsible for obtaining surety bonds from the individuals enlisted in the category IV of the ATA.

He asked the police to take immediate legal action against such individuals and obtain the surety bonds from them. If the individuals failed to follow the law, separate cases should be registered against them. The home department also sought a complete report on the issue from the CPO and chiefs of the other districts.

Earlier, the police had also been intimated by the intelligence agencies to check the activities of people who had been trained in Afghanistan during the 1980s and later returned to Pakistan. In addition, the police were also directed to check the activities of Lal Masjid elements and those who had come back to Pakistan after serving in Afghan jails.

There were also intelligence reports that a large number of activists who had either been tried or were involved in terror activities and placed on the 4th schedule of ATA had been missing from their listed addresses.

Critics say if the government wanted to get rid of terrorism, it should depoliticise the police and ensure that officers are not appointed on political grounds. The top police officers, especially SPs, CPOs, RPOs and IGP, are posted by the chief minister after brief interviews. Obviously, their poor performance and attitude towards the citizens also give a bad name to their selectors.

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