Although the Bannu assault is the biggest jailbreak in our history, this is not something surprising in the current scene. It is a continuation of the bitter realties of failure — failure of the state’s strategy for counter-insurgency and terrorism. This incident happened on Sunday, April 15, around 1:30 am, which not only refreshed the memories of major militant attacks like the ones on Manawan Police Centre, GHQ assault, Mehran Base, dozens of attacks on posts and convoys of military, police, Frontier Corps and attacks on public places, but this has also reminded us of the real threat faced by the state. The stage for the whole drama was prepared under the nose of all state institutions, who are now calling it a security lapse, but was it just a security lapse? Is it not that by assuming and confining our mind at this point we are going towards another disaster? Firstly, it is not only a failure of intelligence but also an exemplar of laxity and inefficiency of law enforcement departments regarding security issues. Secondly, police stations are located in the areas adjacent to Bannu central jail, while the FC headquarter is at a distance of five to six km and army cantonments at 10 km. According to the inside story, the FC had received an emergency call from the central jail for help at 3:00 am, but by then the militants had escaped from the crime scene. The moment the militants attacked the central jail, only 32 out of 140 enrolled policemen were on duty. As to the late response to the emergency call, the other forces stationed nearby remained passive and did not even bother to check after hearing loud sounds of rockets and grenade blasts.
The Bannu assault has once again diverted attention towards the weak training system of police and weak intelligence network at the local level, which not only took lives but also shattered the morale of the jawans on the battlefield.
Where is the writ of the state? It is true that Bannu is situated in a very sensitive region, but the jailbreak was made possible due to laxity and intelligence failure. Moreover, why the second stage police, FC and army could not chase and catch a single prisoner? Is this inefficiency or incapacity in front of some dozens of militants or would it be better to say it was impossible for the protectors of law to move toward militant hideouts present in the adjacent areas of North Waziristan, where the writ of the state is negligible. We can also predict that a limited operation in the nearest areas for the most wanted prisoners would result in another battlefield with militants settled in North Waziristan.
The most important aspect of the Bannu jail saga is Adnan Rashid, a former Pakistan Air Force employee who was sentenced to death for involvement in the attack on former president General Pervez Musharaf. This is one of the examples of rogue elements in the Pakistani military but we have to emphasise one other point that relates to provision of facilities given to Adnan Rashid in a death cell. According to reports, he had a cellular phone in the cell; he used to write blogs and managed connection with the world outside with the help of facebook. Who is responsible for the easy escape of Adnan Rashid and 21 other prisoners on death row, 21 serving life imprisonment, 95 on murder charges and others? If a convoy can attack a jail for rescuing Adnan Rashid where the state seems helpless, then how can we assume there would not be any assault on the prisons holding Dr Usman or Brigadier Ali or a number of other high profile leaders from different militant groups?
In short, the Bannu attack is a reminder for our state, which considered the temporary silence of militants as its success and used to claim that they have broken the backbone of the militants. Time has proved the silence of the foe in actual terms is preparation for new assaults.
Islamabad, April 16.