In the recent past several terrorists attacks have been carried out on sensitive installations and civilians by terrorists clad in military uniforms, costing the lives of dozens of soldiers and civilians.
Terrorists targeted law enforcement officials and sensitive installations including PNS Mehran, Minhas Kamra Airbase, the army cantonment in Mardan and even General Headquarters in 2009, after which the sale of military uniform in open markets was banned.
The massacre of Shia bus passengers in Kohistan and Babusar in Mansehra district in February and August 2012 were also carried out by terrorists clad in military uniform.
Despite a ban, military fatigues are being sold openly in various cities including Peshawar’s Karkhano market and Rawalpindi.
It is not just terrorists who have easy access to military and police uniforms. Smaller versions are worn by children, reflecting the martial mind set that prevails in society.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Muhammad Shafi, a shopkeeper in Kabari Bazaar dealing in military uniforms, said the fatigues, prepared locally, are in high demand.
“Military and even police uniforms are prepared on order. Apart from soldiers and policemen, young people also take great interest in buying such uniforms,” he said. Shafi was aware of the ban, but brushed it aside, saying, “The government is in the habit of banning everything.”
There are other markets where such uniforms are easily available, such as Hathi Chowk and Railways Road.
Most citizens held the district government responsible for its inability to implement the ban in letter and spirit. “The non-implementation of ban on the sale of military uniforms shows that the administration places no value on soldiers’ lives,” said schoolteacher Muhammad Afzal. People in military uniforms can easily gain access to the outer perimeter of high-security areas, he said.
“It is beyond comprehension how military and civilian law enforcement uniforms can be openly sold in public markets,” he added. He said the government should take prompt action to curb future attacks on army staff and government installations.
When contacted, District Coordination Officer Saqib Zafar told The Express Tribune that the military has changed its uniform but it is not easy for a common man to distinguish between the two. “The district government is aware of the situation. We have received a letter from the Punjab Home Department asking for action against the sale of all kinds of military and police uniforms and gear,” he said.
He said he has already discussed the situation with City Police Officer Azhar Hameed Khokhar and action was on the cards. “The markets will soon be cleared of such items.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2013.