The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly session on Friday saw the government face tough questions from the opposition over the Bannu jailbreak and the security situation in the province.
The assembly session began after two call-attention notices, one from the opposition and the other from the treasury benches. Opposition leader Akram Khan Durrani from Bannu stood up on a point of order and steered the discussion towards the Bannu jailbreak.
The attack on the Bannu Central Prison in April led to the escape of 384 prisoners. Dubbing the incident “unique”, Durrani said that the jailbreak led to a confusing situation. “This incident has tarnished the institution’s reputation,” he said. “It was utterly shameful that 45 vehicles travelled from a remote area to a district and went scot-free after proceeding with their plans and the administration did not know about it.”
Durrani said that some people believe that the government was complicit in the jailbreak. The opposition leader also said that the police were arresting family members of escaped prisoners, while the families were questioning the government about the safety and whereabouts of their loved ones.
Durrani blasted the district coordination officer (DCO) of Bannu and took the K-P government to task for not taking any action against the DCO in the aftermath of the jailbreak. “You suspend the commissioner, DIG and other officials but there was no action against the DCO, who carries most of the responsibility,” he said.
He went on to say that the DCO is also a political agent of the Frontier Region (FR) and those who attacked the jail had twice entered his jurisdiction; yet he was still made acting commissioner.
“Why was he on leave when this incident took place?,” he asked, adding that there were rumours that the DCO had prior knowledge of the plan.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain asked the opposition for cooperation, saying that the province was facing a difficult situation resulting from three decades of war in the region. Hussain said that it was strange that militants managed to get away with the prisoners. “We are investigating what happened, what the police and administration did, why jail authorities did not attempt a counter-attack,” he said. Hussain added that militants used explosives to blow up the jail gates and the concerned security officials could not claim they didn’t know about it when explosions could clearly be heard.
He termed the jailbreak incident “conspiracy terrorism”, and assured the house that a report will be complete soon and would be presented to the house. He said that they will also take the report of the opposition leader and will not spare the DCO if he was found guilty, adding that other officials were suspended so that they could not affect the investigation.
Hussain also called for bringing back Frontier Constabulary platoons from other parts of the country saying they were raised to protect the borders between settled and tribal areas.
The assembly session was adjourned till Monday.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.