The committee investigating the DI Khan prison break has questioned 100 officials and summoned 12 high-ranking officials for August 12, senior authorities of the Home and Tribal Affairs Department told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
At least 150 heavily armed Taliban militants freed 248 prisoners, including more than 49 high-profile militants – some belonging to the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – during a sophisticated attack on the high-security Central Prison DI Khan on July 29.
Wearing police uniforms, the gunmen battled security forces after blowing up the electricity supply to the prison, killing visibility. Armed with night-vision goggles, guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives, the attackers bombarded the prison for three hours before escaping with inmates.
Officials said the committee’s focus was on how militants accessed a high-security area and breached a three-tiered defence system comprising law enforcement agencies (LEA). Most LEA personnel, however, had fled the attack, giving the Taliban an opportunity to escape with their choice of inmates without being hindered.
“Upon receiving intelligence information on July 28, all concerned – including army officials who visited the premises – expressed satisfaction over the security measures taken to protect the prison,” shared one home department authority. The inner and outer cordons comprised of police while the outermost cordons, which were to be filled by the army, remained vacant during the attack, he added. “Yes, we will not spare anyone; this is not Peshawar’s responsibility, it is Dera’s. We were told after the July 28 visit everything was up to the mark,” said the official. If things had been up to the mark, could militants have breached three layers of security, he questioned. “The inquiry committee will fix responsibility and will not let anyone go unquestioned.”
The officials pointed out the prison shared a wall with Police Lines, and even shared a small common gate, but no one showed up to supplement the gaps left by those who fled. Protecting the prison from inside is the job of the jail administration, they added.
In addition to increasing the number of police personnel deployed at Central Prison Peshawar, the home department on August 6 also deployed the Pakistan Army there in view of a possible Taliban attack on the penitentiary.
“We already have an armoured personnel carrier (APC) and elite force commandoes to protect the building. The number of police commandoes has been doubled as a precaution,” said a prison official who ruled out the possibility of a Bannu or DI Khan style attack in Peshawar due to presence of army and paramilitary forces.
Formed on July 31, the investigation committee comprises Board of Revenue Senior Member Waqar Ayub, who chairs the committee, along with Home and Tribal Affairs Special Secretary Syed Alamgir Shah, K-P Additional IG (Special Branch) Syed Akhtar Ali Shah and representatives of the Headquarters 11 Corps Peshawar.
The final report is expected to be submitted around mid-August.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2013.