Bannu jail attacked, 384 inmates fled! Were the jail staffers sleeping? Militants ruptured D.I. Khan jail! More than 250 prisoners freed! Where were the nearby located troops? PTI’s government should step down! Heroine-addict Sikander waving automatic rifles near Red Zone challenged the entire IS system of ICT! Serious security lapse in capital city! Is this your model police? Such disheartening debates are all-around.

Did we take some action against the delinquents? Yes, so many actions. Behold, “coward” jail and police officials have been taken to task. The IG prisons KPK is suspended. Arrest of Superintendent Jail (another small fly) being considered. Transfer of DPO proposed. Look, eight jail staffers and two police constables have also been sacked. Still, you mumble it was not the failure of LEAs, but of state leadership? By the way, whom can we baptise the state leadership, PM, President, CJ, COAS, Parliament, “un”-social media or “juries” of “senior” unprofessional analysts of TV debates?

Instantly after an incident of terrorism, the puerile TV jurists start fixing responsibility on toothless incumbents. The state leadership follows the media management’s approach. Political leaders make boastful statements in front of TV cameras. Suspensions, transfers and dismissals of few officials finalise the state action. Additional armed men are deployed at the terror-stricken buildings for a few weeks till they are shifted to the next institution targeted in subsequent episode of terrorism. Nobody dares to plan a pre-emptive attack on terrorists. The state mainly follows a defensive policy of deploying extra troops around public-sector buildings to repel likely attacks.

The scarcity of weapons, lack of professional training and capacity building opportunities are genuine concerns faced by most of civil LEAs. However, actual issues are non-existence of decisive and fully authorised command and practicable lawful authority for exercising powers. During counterterrorism operations, officials of civil armed forces feel scared, as they would have to face the afterward suo motos in personal capacity. The state hardly writes off collateral damages. No constitutional cover is provided to the civil armed forces for taking action against prospective or seemingly terrorists. They have to wait for a bullet-wound or the death of a companion.

Conversely, the militants are not only equipped with sophisticated weapons, but also an unambiguous ideology of “jihad” as per their definition. Suicide bombing, attacking jails and security installations, kidnapping uniformed officials and slaughtering army and police captives is a “noble” deed for them. They are fighting a “holy war” against Pakistan without any disorientation. Quite the reverse, instead of declaring open war on them and launching offensives, the state authorities are still dealing with them leniently, in accordance with the prevailing laws of the land with exception of one Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. Before I forget, this Act needs to provide further for the protection of good-faith actions by LEAs.

Oddly enough, all explosives and weapons are deemed to be “prohibited articles” to be taken into a prison within the meaning of Section 42 and Clause (12) of Section 45 of the Prisons Act 1894. Whoever, including a prison officer, introduces or attempts to introduce any prohibited article into prison shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of six months under Section 42 of Prisons Act 1894. The rationale behind this law is to ensure life security of inmates and to avoid snatching of weapons by dangerous criminals leading to some untoward situation. Accordingly, no provision exists in Prisons Act 1894 and Pakistan Prison Rules 1978 under which armless correctional staff deputed for custody, care, control and correction (4Cs) of prisoners can be expected to counter an attack from outside. Prison employees in all provinces neither have expertise in counterterrorism, nor have they been recruited for such role. They perform their social-service type functions like provision of food, medical treatment and production of prisoners in courts, teaching them various handicrafts and skills and supervising their interviews with their relatives. They perform these duties empty-handed years after years. Almost 100 percent of them from lowest to highest level fire about 5-50 bullets from recruitment till retirement. Requiring them to combat the terrorists is akin to asking a competent university teacher or a specialist doctor to fly a fighter aircraft and drop a nuclear bomb on the enemy’s territory.

The national leadership should stop converting all social service departments into counterterrorism troops. Let everybody be a specialist of his own profession. Equipping non-professionals with sophisticated weapons without any constitutional cover, practicable lawful authority, decisive command and margin of error to trigger the weaponry shall bear no fruit. The state will have to abandon the appliance of routine law in case of declared terrorists. Enemies, if we consider them, do not understand the criminal justice system. A defensive policy will have to be renounced and offensives by concerned military and civil forces against power and support centres of terrorism will have to be launched on the pattern of operation clean-up in Swat. Political leaders must end with politics on the issue of terrorism and support the government to devise the long-awaited security policy. Command structure may clearly be evolved and notified for counterterrorism operations. Otherwise, no one is really going to bell the cat. Resultantly, terrorists shall soldier on with breaking jails and challenging the writ of the state.

The writer is serving as senior superintendent of Central Jail Faisalabad. The views expressed in this article are entirely personal and must not be attributed to government policy.