ISLAMABAD  - The inquiry committee of the Interior Ministry probing the August 15 standoff in the capital city, in its final report has absolved the two senior police officers of ICT, inspector general of police (IGP) and senior superintendent of police (SSP), from all charges of any negligence and inefficiency, The Nation learnt on Tuesday.

The three-member committee of the ministry Tuesday finalized its report on the Islamabad standoff in which a gunman, Malik Sikandar, had virtually made hostage the capital city and ultimately the entire country for more than five hours. The report of the committee has been presented to Secretary Interior Qamar Zaman Chaudhry and Federal Minister for Interior Qamar Zaman Chaudhry and the same would be presented to the Prime Minister with a special note of secretary interior.

The official sources in the ministry said that the three-member committee in its final report had failed to fix specific responsibility on any senior police officer of Islamabad as well as high-ups of the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) and has generally held police department responsible for the whole mess. "The report has neither fixed responsibility nor discussed the role of SSP, the actual head of the police command in Islamabad nor IGP, the administrative head of the department and ICT Administration including chief commissioner and deputy commissioner," a senior official of the ministry said on the condition of anonymity adding that in other words, IGP Sikandar Hayat and SSP Dr Rizwan had been cleared of all charges of inefficiency, incompetence and negligence.

The committee has given general recommendations in its finding report, said official spokesman of the interior ministry and member of the inquiry committee, senior joint secretary Umer Hamid Khan. He further said that these recommendations would be subject to approval of the interior minister. Giving the details of the recommendations, the spokesman said that the committee had recommended to improve coordination and training of capital police on modern lines, to improve on command side and improvement of security of red zone and Blue Area side.

The sources privy to the development said that the committee in its report held the ICT police over all responsible for the prolonged drama of Malik Sikandar and its inability to handle the situation that the whole nation witnessed live throughout the country. The committee also held responsible media for the delayed action saying that due to the live converge of the incident; the police faced hurdles to take a quick and better action against the lone gunman. The committee in its report has observed that the ICT police is short of capacity to handle such situation and it lacks modern techniques, training and equipment.

The report recommended that the ICT police should be quipped with modern training, techniques and equipment including arms and ammunition to tackle such situations in future. It also proposed that coordination should be improved between the high command of ICT police and the city administration. It suggested that the proposed rapid counter-terrorism deployment force should be formed on an urgent basis to embark upon such circumstances.

On the other hand, political sources said that committee saved the skin of both the senior police officers of ICT Police, IGP Sikandar Hayat and SSP Dr Rizwan because of their close association with the senior leadership of the PML-N. Dr Rizwan was very close to Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif during the previous PML-N led Punjab government and remained posted as district police officer (DPO) at different stations in the province.

The committee in its detailed inquiry, during the last three days, recorded a number of statements of the officials of police and the local administration.

The police and ICT Administration had started a blame game before the committee for their delay and inaction against the gunman during standoff. The administration before the committee had condemned the role of police for directly starting negotiations with the gunman without involving the administration. On the other hand, the police before the committee had tried to transfer the responsibility of the mess on the administration.

The role and negligence of the ICT Administration could not be ruled out in the delayed action to handle the situation as the administration unlike other parts of the country had full magisterial powers that the bureaucracy once enjoyed before the Musharraf era.

The three-member committee of the Ministry of Interior included its Additional Secretary Ather Sayal, senior joint secretary Umer Hamid Khan and Director (Operations) of its National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) Farid Khan. Interior minister had formed the committee after Prime Minister had taken the notice of the incident and had sought reply from the secretary interior.