LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif on Saturday made it clear that the proposed Anti-Terrorism Force (ATF) will work under the command of police department. The much-awaited announcement by no other than the chief executive of the province triggered celebrations and happiness among the officers of Police Service of Pakistan (PSP), who were virtually demoralized and upset.

The proposed ATF generated a big controversy between the police and civil bureaucracy since the federal government had introduced the novel idea on behest of baboos to disintegrate country’s largest law enforcing agency.

As a matter of fact, the government was going to segregate the Punjab police by slashing its key wings– Special Branch, Elite Police Force, and CTD, to entertain the baboos and some ex-servicemen. If it was done in haste and as per the plan, it would prove last nail in the coffin of the police department. The ATF is likely to become operational by the end of next year, according to the official plan.

The PSP officers considering the ATF as a parallel agency had categorically rejected the induction of ex-army officers in the force, saying that the physically and mentally exhausted ex-servicemen are unfit for the key jobs.

The PSP officers got conveyed a strong message to Punjab Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Shjarif through Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khan Baig that they would never accept partition in the police department, come what may.

“Simply, the establishment of new ATF, as proposed by the Home Department, will happen over our dead bodies,” a senior police officer commented at a high-level meeting held at a police headquarter, the other day in Lahore.

The Chief Minister told IGP Khan Baig that he would have to follow the policy of the federal government regarding the establishment of the new anti-terrorism force. However, he assured the provincial police chief that he would soon consult the PSP officers and the federal government to address their genuine grievances. Sources revealed that the Chief Minister convinced Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after an in-depth presentation regarding the proposed ATF and its plan of action.

A couple of months ago, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had sanctioned the formation of an anti-terrorist force in Punjab.

Earlier, a delegation of PSP’s Punjab chapter association led by DIG Zulfiqar Hameed met IGP Khan Baig at the Central Police Office and conveyed their reservations to the police chief in this regard. The delegation included SSP Hussain Habib Imtiaz, SSP Sohail Akhtar Sukhera, Sheikhupura DPO Humayun Bashir Tarar and former additional inspector general Aftab Ahmed Cheema. Police sources say the credit goes to the PSP Punjab chapter for winning the case against baboos.

At present, the total strength of the Punjab Police is 177,669. According to police rules, there must be one police official per 450 persons, whereas, according to the population of the province this percentage becomes one police official per 1250 persons. 

In 1947, the total strength of Punjab Police was 34000 which should have been enhanced up to three times as the population of Punjab swelled to 98 million.

Only in 2013, at least 4226 different protest demonstrations were held whereas 2264 rallies were taken out besides more than 760 sits-in and 513 strikes called by various organizations. The under-staff police had to tackle all challenges and they did it carefully and effectively. During the last five years, police records say, at least 398 terrorists had been arrested by the law enforcing agency.

The PSP officers argued that forming an autonomous anti-terrorism force would be counter-productive as it would result in less information-sharing and weaker coordination among various law enforcing and security agencies. The officers strongly opposed to the Home Department taking over the Special Branch, CTD, and Elite Police Force.  They were of the view that only recently the CID had been converted into Counter Terrorism Department (CTD). The PSP officers were of the view that an inexperienced person like home secretary was being assigned the command of the anti-terrorism force. They argued that CTD, under police command, arrested terrorists in major cases like attacks on FIA building,

Ahmadis mosques, Naval War College, and Data Darbar despite budget constraints and lack of modern weaponry.  Referring to the projected budget of Rs6 billion for ATF compared to Rs380 million for CTD, the police officers say the CTD would have performed much better had the resources being spent on ATF been invested on CTD. Instead of setting up new organisations like ATF, the government should build the capacity of Punjab police by providing modern gadgetry, best recruitment, training, formation of intelligence analysis centre and latest weaponry.

In 2000, the National Reconstruction Bureau conducted a detailed analysis about the efficacy of Magistracy System and decentralizing of police being part of the Home Department.