The idea that the militant enemy we strive to eliminate is not a distant one based in the north, but one that exists right in the midst of the very force intended to hunt it out is a terrifying one. Yet this, it seems, is the reality that stares us in the face. In an astonishing development some days ago, the SSP Malir district Anwar Ahmed Khan, who was targeted in a suicide attack on April 5, has accused an inspector of police in Karachi, Azam Mehsud, and his brother Sherzaman, of being involved in it. Khan escaped only because he had been using an armoured personnel carrier after having received death threats. The Taliban had immediately claimed responsibility for the suicide blast, which had claimed four lives.
The development in the case indicates how deep the Taliban penetration into our security infrastructure has been and the risk that this poses for us. Sherzaman Mehsud, who was till recently in jail, has been arrested and his brother Azam booked, following the lodging of multiple FIRs by Khan. But right now, we can only wonder where others with the same kind of sympathies for the Taliban, and a willingness to act on the basis of their convictions, lurk. The gunning down in January last year of former governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, by his own police guard, is yet another reminder of what can happen when those intended to hunt down terrorists or protect others from them, instead enter into a pact with them.
It is known that during the 1990s in the Punjab, groups which have since been banned, notably the Sunni extremist Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan, made a conscious effort to influence the police force and bureaucracy. Their efforts are believed to have succeeded to a considerable degree. It is clear that the infiltration by the extremists into the security and administrative set-up goes deep. We need to find a way to conduct a purge, detect these elements and oust them from the heart of our police and other security set-ups before they strike again from the inside, using their positions and knowledge to inflict maximum damage.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2012.