PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government appears to have learnt some lessons from this week’s brazen attack on Bannu Central Jail.
Security at all six central jails in the province, including Bannu, Haripur, Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan, has been tightened, The Express Tribune has learnt from senior police officials familiar with the matter.
The provincial police force has provided security personnel at jails with Light Machine Guns and more security men have been deputed so that access routes to jails are also better guarded.
“Previously, jail staff was armed with AK-74 Kalashnikov rifles which are barely capable of stopping attackers,” said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Only six to eight armed men were deployed at a jail at any point in time in areas known as the outer cordon.”
The outer cordon is the exterior boundary wall, main gate and watch towers where constables, armed with automatic rifles, are normally deployed. “Staffers inside jails are armed only with sticks.”
The Bannu attack, in which over 200 militants managed to free 384 inmates, cannot be called a failure of jail security only, the official said.
Jails are not protected against military-type external attacks thus this is failure on part of district administration and police too, he reasoned. “When you attack a jail Bannu-style, you have to pass through settlements where you can definitely be detected.”
For this reason, he said, authorities believe that a Bannu-type attack is unlikely to succeed in Peshawar but are of the opinion that security arrangements need to be improved.
In Peshawar Central Jail alone, as many as 500 dangerous criminals are imprisoned. Twenty-five of these are militants of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and 250 belong to Khyber Agency’s Lashkar-e-Islam.
“Militants are present in all central jails and two years ago, the government decided to construct high security zones inside these jails for militants. These zones are now near completion,” the police official said. Once complete, these zones will separate “hardcore militants” from other prisoners.
Meanwhile, a meeting was held in Peshawar on Wednesday to review security arrangements in the province’s jails. There are six central jails and several district jails in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The official said that during the meeting, participants noted that an armoury is located near the main gate of all central jails from where rifles are issued to staff in case of an emergency. However, they also noted that when a jail is attacked, it is not possible for the administration to issue weapons to staff from the armoury. Hence, the security arrangements present are insufficient to counter a well-armed, coordinated attack.