Over fifty police officers have been killed in Karachi in 2014 alone. Shafiq Tanoli was just one of them. Along with high-profile cases like Safwat Gayur and Chaudhry Aslam, terrorists have targeted around 5,272 officials of the law-enforcement agencies (mostly police). Why is the police a target? They are a symbol of the state; not guarded like the GHQ or cordoned off in the Presidential Palace, but on the streets, visible in uniform. As such they are a symbolic target for those who want to sabotage the state.

There have been three major jailbreaks in Bannu and D.I.Khan, and in each case, heavily armed militants got away without resistance. In the Rawalpindi court attack, the police refused to fire in fear of a counterattack. The enemy is organized, taking the initiative, ambushing while heavily armed (200kg of explosives were used to kill Chaudhary Aslam). Often, militants have undergone war and combat training while the police forces have had none, existing without any real policy framework and without the authority to arrest high level targets.  As such, police officers have little authoritative clarity but plenty of inquiries, transfers, explanations,  and court cases to suffer through. The narrative against terrorism is also incoherent and this affects police psyche. Many consider the militants “our own people” and “our brothers gone astray,” who should be talked to, not fought.

The police are at the tactical end, and any real change has to be at the policy level. There has to be upgraded equipment for searching vehicles and personnel, like scanners, sniffer dogs and security cameras. The long overdue National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) should finally be implemented. NACTA was to “coordinate and unify” national counter-terrorism efforts. Since there is no coordination between the different security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, a supra agency is needed to fix loopholes and prevent intelligence failures. The separate Counter Terrorism Department in Punjab and the new Punjab Anti-terrorism Force is not a real substitute for this institutional unification. The police should maintain law and order, not the Rangers, Army or Frontier Constabulary. This is only possible with a sound anti-terror policy, a uniform narrative at all levels, a truly empowered police force and a security/intelligence apparatus that ensures that the community as a whole is safe. Otherwise the policemen searching our cars at police posts, are only searching for their own deaths.