LAHORE  - In the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, 421 commandoes passed out of the Elite Police Training School located in Bedian on Saturday. With the conclusion of the impressive ceremony Punjab became the first province in the country to have a specialised force to cope with rising challenge of homegrown insurgency.

Officials say the new force – the first of its kind – has been given special training in counter-terrorism by the Pakistan Army. These corporals are the replica of Elite Police Force set up back in the 1990s to combat sectarianism.

Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) was raised after revamping of Crime Investigation Department as the lead agency in Punjab to grapple with the growing menace of terrorism. Counter Terrorism Force has been raised in CTD with the induction of 1,182 corporals. The first batch has completed its training, the second is doing its STP, and the third is in the pipeline.

The corporals’ training has been divided in three phases – four-month exercise as Elite Force, three-month experience as intelligence personnel, and three months as special anti-terror squad. This provincial anti-terror force is part of the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) unveiled by the federal government on February 26, 2014. The Punjab Home Minister says, “It had been decided that the police will play the role of frontline force against terrorists and realizing the importance of raising the morale of police, the Punjab chief minister has increased the amount of compensation for the martyred police officials.” According to Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera, these corporals believe in laying down their lives in order to protect the life, liberty, honour, and property of citizens.

These corporals are being trained keeping in view the multidimensional challenges of terrorism and the required response thereof. They are taught eight modules in CTP and then segregated into specialized wings of special operations, intelligence and investigation after applying modern psychological assessment tools and keeping in view their overall performance both in academics and physical tests.

The Turkish government extended its full cooperation in the training of these corporals by sending 45 senior officers of Turkish National Police for training the corporals in the specialized legs of intelligence, operations, and investigation. After imparting quality training to the first batch of corporals, the Turkish are now training the second batch of corporals.

The Turkish National Police officers have also trained 56 officers of the Punjab Police as master trainers both in Pakistan as well as in Turkey. This will definitely go a long way in further strengthening the brotherly relations with Turkey, officials believe. For effectively dealing with the growing and potent threat of terrorism in the country, induction of special force was necessary, which would work day in and day out to fight the menace of terrorism by gathering intelligence information, conducting special operations and then investigating the targets involved in all kinds of terrorism.

The CTD aims at fighting the curse of terrorism in all its manifestations including sectarianism and extremism leading to militancy.

The provincial police chief says that hectic efforts are underway to create adequate capacity for intelligence collection, special operations, and investigation processes in CTD. Horizontal and vertical sophistication in human resource development and logistical requirement is being made to restructure and revamp CTD on modern lines.

However, according to a public policy expert, specialized units like intelligence development, investigations, crime scene management should be developed in the CTD as per international standards. The Forensics Science Agency will be a fantastic support for this critical function of CTD.

The CTD in Punjab and similar set ups in other provinces should be beefed up with a CTF component like Specialized Weapons Operations Teams and this can be done by enhancing the capability of Elite Force officers and merging them with CTD under one command. Otherwise it could prove as half-baked ideas in the future.