The role of civilian investigating agencies who have been charged with probing last week’s PNS Mehran attack is being undermined by the naval authorities, prompting observers to question the impartiality and effectiveness of the investigation process currently under way. FIA and police officials say that their role has been reduced to paperwork despite the fact that they are part of the joint investigation team charged with probing into the incident which led to the loss of human lives and equipment worth millions of dollars. Ironically, while Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that the FIA and the police will be part of the investigation which will be headed by the navy, the civilian investigation agencies have not been allowed access to the scene of the disaster. Their investigations are based on data provided to them by the military agencies, officials confirmed.
The case of the terrorist attack on PNS Mehran has been registered in the Sharae Faisal police station to fulfill legal requirements. Based on this FIR, the senior most officer of the District East investigation department has started to investigate the case.
However, the officer and his colleagues are not allowed to independently investigate the case, causing many to wonder whether there is any purpose to the joint investigation. Police officials are also not being given access to relevant personnel who need to be questioned as part of the investigations.
All the investigations are being carried out by the military intelligence agencies while the police are provided very limited data just to fulfill legal requirements and formalities, say sources.
Police are not even allowed to ask follow up questions to understand the flaws and the gaps in the information provided to them.
The example of this kind of flaw is the case itself registered in the police station in which a junior officer of the Pakistan Navy, contrary to the statement of the naval chief, told the police that the number of the attackers was 10 to 12 and the police accepted this statement without questioning it.
The forensic experts of the anti-terrorism wing of the FIA are also not allowed to inspect the arms used by the terrorists, the dead bodies of the terrorists and the route used by the terrorists to enter into the base.
These FIA experts have a record of providing reports that have led to success in the past but this access is being denied to them, which has led many to fear that the relevant authorities may not be interested in getting to the bottom of the incident.
Police officials told The Express Tribune that the military intelligence agencies are not allowing them to conduct independent investigations. They attributed this attitude to the traditional sense of superiority found in the armed forces with respect to civilian agencies.
Though police and FIA representatives have been included in the joint investigation team formed by the naval chief, not a single meeting has been convened of the team so far, nor has there been any exchange of information with civilian organizations.
The logic of giving the investigations to the navy despite the fact that this incident occurred under its purview has also made many question the motives of the relevant authorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2011.