Security and Terrorism Clearance for Bureaucrats.

(Fawad Ali Shah, )

There is very strict procedure for recruiting officers in the federal and provincial bureaucracy; we have exams like CSS at the centre and PMS at the provincial level. But there is no such system which is in place for further retention of a person in government service or his posting and transfer. The law which normally deals with the subject is the Civil servants Act 1973. Moreover there is no mechanism to check about the actual background activities of a Civil servant or his family memberscompetitive. Due to the prevalent law and order situation, many incidents have occurred which have brought a bad name for our society in general and bureaucracy in particular. One such incident was that of the terrorist Attack at a Pakistani naval base in Karachi in September 2011. It was a well planned act led by OwaisJakhrani who was sacked from the Pakistan Navy for radical religious views. He led an audacious mission to take over a warship and turn its guns on a US naval vessel in the open seas. Although it was thwarted, but not before Jakhrani, two officers and an unidentified fourth assailant snuck past a patrol boat in a dinghy and engaged in an intense firefight on or around the warship, PNS Zulfiqar. Four navy officials were killed in the attempt to hijack the Zulfiqar, along with Jakhrani and two accomplices, who were serving sub-lieutenants, according to police reports and having affiliation with Al-Qaida. Officials are divided about how much support the young man in his mid-20s had from inside the navy. They also stress that Jakhrani and his accomplices were near from achieving their aim when they were killed. According to an initial statement from al Qaeda, the plan was to use the Zulfiqar to attack a US navy vessel, meaning potential loss of American lives and a blow to relations between the two nations. A further statement issued by the group identified the target as USS Supply, a US naval ship used to refuel warships at sea. The Indian navy was also a target, the statement said. It urged followers to “make jihad on the seas one of their priorities,” according to the SITE intelligence group, which monitors extremist communications. Yet the then Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told parliament the attackers could only have breached security with inside help. Three serving mid-level lieutenant commanders from Karachi were also arrested in the western city of Quetta, allegedly trying to flee to Afghanistan two days after the botched raid, officials said. Further arrests were made in Karachi, Peshawar, and northwestern Pakistan, including the father of OwaisJakhrani was detained and was thoroughly interrogated along with other son. As per phone record, his PSP father was in constant contact with him while he was having training in Al Qaeda terrorist training camp based in Afghanistan. Moreover his father himself was well known among police for his staunch Hanfi anti USA belief. The plot’s mastermind was sub-lieutenant Jakhrani, either 25 or 26 years old, the son of a senior police officer in Karachi at that time and now serving in FIA, officials said. “We found literature and material on his person that no one can be allowed to have. His colleagues reported his views and he was then closely watched and monitored and finally dismissed,” one official said. Intelligence officials tipped off the navy days before the attack that a raid was imminent, according to two officials. But Jakhrani, who had an insider’s knowledge of the Karachi base, did not appear to be closely monitored. Imtiaz Gul, head of the Islamabad-based think tank the Centre for Research and Security Studies, said senior generals were aware of a long-standing weakness in surveillance of military officials and their families dismissed for extremism. “They don’t have a tracking system for officers who are dismissed or asked to leave the service (for radical views),” said Gul. “That makes it very difficult to track if they have joined extremist groups.” Chris Rawley, vice president of the Washington DC-based think tank the Center for International Maritime Security, said the attack never looked likely to succeed. But underlining one of the United States’ biggest fears, he added: “The fact that maybe there are some collaborators in the navy is worrying because maybe there are collaborators among others that have purview over nuclear weapons.” The most alarming aspect of this discussion is that when his PSP father and his family are still living in FIA Headquarters Islamabad. In recent past, his other son tried to get commission in Pakistan Army but was rejected during medical because of the fact that he has tattoos of religious slogans on his body. The Government of Pakistan is in constant state of negligence while it still lacking the will to apprehend extremism and religious views of senior bureaucrats like the PSP father of OwaisJakhrani as the family is already well known for its close ties with Al-Qaeda. The political compromises and nepotism has embedded deep into to bureaucracy and with no time this PSP father of a terrorist was posted as head of Counter Terrorism Wing in FIA along with some other key posts where he is having access to all sensitive information which can be lethal if shared with any terrorist outfits. The question is whether Government will make laws for checking the actual background activities of a Civil servant or his family members while in service. There should be a proper mechanism with strong filters through which all the bureaucrats must steer through. Even while deciding an officer for an important slot, clearance must be sought from all intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

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