The record-setting jailbreak in Pakistan’s history that took place in Dera Ismail Khan early this week exposes the rank incompetence and a total lack of preparedness of the security establishment to meet the challenge as well as the time-consuming bureaucratic functioning that render any advance warning of the coming danger utterly ineffective. Reportedly, the intelligence agencies had warned the authorities on July 24 that a big operation was being planned by the Taliban militants to secure the release of their committed comrades from the jail. And the concerned top officials of the KPK province did put their heads together in an emergency meeting at the site of the feared attack to devise a strategy to frustrate the terrorists’ designs.

But it took them four more days – sheer criminal delay – to write about it to the provincial Home Department. Even then, apparently, little was done to beef up the security. In fact, some reports suggest that a fairly large number of guards were absent at the time the Taliban assaulted the prison during the night between July 28 and 29, and many of them, leaving behind their weapons, had run for safety rather than challenge the attackers. Thus, the militants succeeded in freeing as many as 248 prisoners, including 30 hardcore terrorists. Of course, the raiders armed with sophisticated weapons and explosive devices numbered 150 to 200; but, somehow, they found no resistance on the way to the long convoy of vehicles that transported them to the site. Not only that. They had time enough to plant explosives on the roads leading to the prison. That clearly points to the security’s absolute lack of control over the town.

It is incomprehensible, indeed, frustrating to note that our so-called saviours have not learnt any lesson from the previous successful jailbreaks organised by the TTP. Prisons, especially housing high-profile militants, should have foolproof security arrangements on ground to at once go into action round-the-clock even if they receive no advance warning. The flurry of meetings on receipt of an alert hardly seems called for. But here the tragedy is the guards are not only ill trained, but also ill equipped. Strangely, the hype about the ‘national security policy’ created by the PML-N government appeared to have lost its steam, perhaps, because of the realisation that the hydra-headed monster of terrorism cannot be wiped out by simply talking to them. The situation cries out for a quick finalisation of the policy that takes into accounts the realities on the ground and is not based on wishful thinking.