The government has apparently deferred a plan to vet personnel of civil law enforcement agencies for countering radicalisation after a police guard assassinated former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer earlier this year.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said immediately after Taseer’s murder that all officials of civilian security agencies would be screened to identify ‘extremists in uniform’.
Official sources told The Express Tribune here on Sunday there had been little or no significant development on the plan. They said that apart from dispatching letters to provincial departments in the beginning, the interior ministry was not pursuing it hard enough.
“It seems people at the helms of affairs have forgotten all about this…Nothing is happening,” said an interior ministry official, requesting anonymity.
Islamabad police chief Bani Amin Khan was contacted twice to seek his opinion on the issue but he refused to share any specific information on both the occasions. “It is an old thing. What do you want me to say about it now,” he said.
Another official, however, said Islamabad police had been asked to fill out forms through which personality profiles were supposed to be generated.
The forms were issued by the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Operations, as part of a departmental exercise.
But hardly five per cent of officers and officials returned the filled form and there was no mechanism to determine what they were telling was true.
Bani Amin neither confirms nor denies this.
In provinces, the situation was more precarious. Even the initial exercise of circulating forms was not undertaken there.
“I don’t remember any such thing happening,” said a senior police official from Punjab. Punjab’s Additional Inspector General Police (AIGP) (Investigation) Azam Joya said his department had not been asked to undertake this exercise.
A top military official said scrutinising people joining armed forces for their religious and sectarian affiliations was a common practice.
Brigadier Azmat Abbas, an Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) official, said recruits “are asked to reveal not only their sectarian affiliation but also the religious inclinations”.
“It is…a continuous exercise in the military. We keep on doing follow-ups,” he added.
In case of departments under the Strategic Plans Division, including the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), all would-be employees are asked to fill in an even more detailed document. Prospective employees are told to mention their religious backgrounds, extent of theological knowledge, sects and if they had any affiliation with such an organisation.
A number of inquiries by various agencies follow the process, he added.
Despite all this, a few officers and personnel of security forces had been lured either by al Qaeda elements or the homegrown Taliban.
Analyst Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) think-tank, said his perception on whether these measures were effective was different.
“They can only work if done in conjunction with other measures,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2011.