Bannu jailbreak – part II: We had only five Kalashnikovs, say police

Published: April 25, 2012

With security only on paper, an absence of arms and personnel enabled the brazen attack . PHOTO: FILE

BANNU: After a successful military operation in Swat in 2009, the public was willing to believe government claims that it had managed to successfully establish its writ in volatile Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

However, after a planned Taliban operation in Bannu jail led to hundreds of prisoners breaking out of prison, this claim has come into serious question.  It also raises concerns over the jail’s current security set-up – a common sentiment is that if 150 militants can travel down the hills and take command of the jail, they could just as well take control of Bannu city.

On paper, the security at the high-profile prison seemed full proof.

Surrounded by open fields, the jail is located opposite the posh Bannu township, at a ten-minute drive from the Frontier Region (FR) Peng.  It’s also within two kilometres of three police stations.

The jail, which has three entry gates, is surrounded by huge cemented walls, the top of which are covered with barbed wire. Each gate is located further inside, so that one must pass through one gate to get to the other. The outermost gate is called the Phatak gate, and is situated on the main road.

One person is deployed at each of the four search towers. At the Phatak Gate, two armed men are deployed. In addition, there are three other men at the gate – one with an AK-47, another with a register to enter names of visitors and a third assigned with the duty to frisk visitors.

At the last gate to enter the jail, there is only one policeman, armed with just a baton.

A total of 151 police personnel are supposed to keep the jail secure – but on the day the militants mounted the assault, only 119 policemen were present and only 21 were performing their duties. Sources told The Express Tribune that eight policemen had been lent to Dera Ismail Khan Jail and four to Karak Jail. In addition, ten others were on leave and six were found absent from their duties.

A police official, who wished not to be named, told The Express Tribune that the first target of the Taliban was a search tower located just beside the Phatak gate which was blown up when a rocket was fired at it. Rockets were used to shatter the first and third gates, and hand grenades were used to smash the second.

“What could we do, they were above a hundred in strength with the latest weapons and we only had five Kalashnikovs. Tell me honestly, could you face such a situation?” the police official said.

The police official then called his brother and told him what was happening. “My brother told me that he has contacted high-ranking police officials.  They were changing their uniform and would soon arrive. In all, it took around one hour to break the first and the second gate but we could not respond. We were empty-handed.”

“I could clearly see my death. I thought my last moments had arrived and I was going to be slaughtered or shot to death,” he said, adding that two members of the jail police who were deployed at the death cell, climbed up a tree to save their lives.

Two other policemen wore prisoners’ uniform as a cover and ran with the prisoners, unarmed and fearing for their lives.

“I called them to inquire about them but I started laughing when I came to know they had also escaped with the prisoners,” the official said.

He also said one man, who seemed to be leading the militants, was standing at the main gate, telling all those who were escaping: “Go, go, you are free now, just pray for us. Don’t forget to spare your life for Allah.”

The official said those who returned to jail informed the authorities that the group , after entering the FR area, asked all the prisoners if they were willing to leave for Miramshah. Those who declined were dropped off in Peng.

“Those who returned said suicide bombers and explosive-laden vehicles were also dispatched for the attack but returned as fresh as dispatched”, the official added.

Officials have said that all those rearrested or who returned voluntarily, will not be awarded further punishment as they were forced to escape.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.

Reader Comments (11)

  • wahab
    Apr 25, 2012 - 9:58AM

    hmm police is right!! What could they do?? its the duty of provincial govt to provide them with adequate sources.. also if it took 1 hour for them to break in, why didnt additional forces reach there by then? More police, army..anyone>????????

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  • Yasir
    Apr 25, 2012 - 10:03AM

    ET needs to seriously check for spelling mistakes.
    “On paper, the security at the high-profile prison seemed full proof”

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  • Ali
    Apr 25, 2012 - 11:11AM

    On paper, the security at the high-profile prison seemed “full proof”.

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  • Feroz
    Apr 25, 2012 - 12:16PM

    Excellent ! “119 Policemen were present in the jail but only 21 were performing their duty”. Pray, what were the others doing ? The guards it seem had 5 Kalashnikov’s – wonderful. When they could not use even one of those Kalshnikov’s it would not have mattered if they had a hundred more.
    There simply is no will to fight terrorism, within the Army, the Police, the Political class and the Bureaucracy – the country does not need Aid but sanctions to come to its senses as any amount of logic or reason from International interlocutors is not working.

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  • Surprised
    Apr 25, 2012 - 12:21PM

    My question posted earlier in a related post remains unanswered:

    Why were the few hardened / dangerous criminals including those on death row (including Adnan Rasheed) not gunned down? This would make further such attempts highly unlikely. The other option of beefing up the security is a non starter. You cannot face a hord of savage barbarians bent on killing or be killed.

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  • Pakistan Zindabad
    Apr 25, 2012 - 12:36PM

    all the police officials who were not present and those who were present must be dismissed from their jobs along with the provincial minister & the federal minister of interior & the governor & chief minister EFFECTIVELY IMMEDIATELY should not only be sacked but face an open trial, all these persons have brought unthinkable shame upon the already moderately tarnished police of Islamic republic of Pakistan. Ohhh and i do not see if the PM of IRP has made any statements on the massive historical jail break ??? just think for one hour the jailers got no outside help …..what a shame what a blunder….and yet the nation is fooled to vote for them again. loooool

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  • Abbas
    Apr 25, 2012 - 1:18PM

    embarrassing but yet funny ;)

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  • haqq
    Apr 25, 2012 - 1:37PM

    This is a lie.Where were the guns sent ? Were they sent to Kashmir ?

    if that is so,then i am happy that the jailbreak happened as its not more important than Kashmir issue

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  • goof
    Apr 25, 2012 - 2:12PM

    which police officer would sacrifice his life for $5 a day????

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Apr 25, 2012 - 4:16PM

    @Surprised:

    {two members of the jail police who were deployed at the death cell, climbed up a tree to save their lives}

    I agree with your view. Before climbing up the tree they could have swiftly executed the death row inmates and turned into instant heroes. It would also prevent all such future attempts without needing any additional security measures.

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  • Lawangin
    Apr 25, 2012 - 9:22PM

    When I read the news I just imgine what our interior minister and generals proudly claim. We will deal with the enemies sturnly. Or we broken the back bone of the Taliban and Al Qaida and they are on the run. hhahahahahaha, this one small batch of Taliban came all the way from their abode, crossing around a hundred check posts manned by Pakistani brave solders. Attacked the prison, took their colleagues along and again crossed the same check posts. Come one, whom you are making pool. People how badly they are body searched on each check post and how the conveny of armed Taliban in hundred can cross these check post without their knowledge. Did I say permission….?

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