Watching the news, the pictures, the videos, and the abundance of speculation and conspiracy theories, it makes me wonder whether all of this controversy could have been avoided had there been a thorough and professional investigation undertaken after Benazir Bhutto's tragic assassination? Then I realize it is too much to ask of the people involved. Here are some of my reasons why:
1. There is a total lack of professionalism in the way the law-enforcement agencies in Pakistan go about their business. Even a cursory review by a lay person who has watched CSI:Miami or other US police shows on TV can see that no established crime scene procedures are understood or followed in Pakistan. The police do not immediately seal off the crime scenes. The police do not take time to carefully collect and preserve crime scene evidence such as detailed pictures, sketches, weapons, bullet fragments, explosives residues, blood swatches, fibers, vehicles etc. The police do not immediately contact the people present in the vicinity, interrogate them professionally and record their statements. They do not order an immediate autopsy in murder cases. They let the media and even ordinary folks just walk into the crime scene, disturb it and take pictures etc. They order that the crime scene be hosed down as quickly as possible even before it is scrutinized adequately for clues.
2. Even if all of the appropriate and internationally acceptable procedures were followed, there is a widespread fascination among the people and the media for all kinds of conspiracy theories on all matters, big and small. The politicians, in particular, immediately start accusing their opponents to gain political advantage. With total disregard for search of the truth, such an environment is clearly not conducive to any serious investigations of political or any other crimes in Pakistan.
Looking at the history of political assassinations in Pakistan, there are three assassinations that stand out: Liaquat Ali Khan's assassination in 1951, Murtaza Bhutto's assassination in 1996, and Benazir Bhutto's assassination in 2007. What is common in these assassinations is that in each case there were conspiracy allegations and Scotland Yard was brought in. In the first two cases, Scotland Yard could not help for various reasons including the fact that the crime scene evidence in each case was bungled by the Pakistani police. My fear is that the latest effort by Scotland Yard to investigate Benazir Bhutto's murder will meet the same fate.
If Pakistanis really want to learn anything from this history, they must resolve to fix the law-enforcement training and procedures to start to do the basic things right. Otherwise, they will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Given the formidable challenge of the various domestic and international terror groups, Pakistan would become a soft target for their violence against perceived pro-West people and politicians and suffer widespread death and destruction. If Pakistanis do fix these procedures, I think they have a chance of dealing with political, terrorist, and criminal violence more effectively and lessen its impact on society at large. In my view, this suggestion is applicable in Pakistan regardless of the form of government Pakistan has: civilian, military, democratic, autocratic etc. Of course, democracy is preferable to enlist the support of the people to address the underlying causes of violence.
Here's a Guardian report about a tough Karachi cop:
If the lucky really have nine lives, then Chaudhry Aslam Khan, Karachi's toughest policeman, is fast running out of his.
One morning in September, Aslam was sleeping when powerful shockwaves rippled through his house. Falling out of bed, he discovered that a Taliban suicide bomber had rammed a van into his front gate, with devastating consequences.
The blast sheared off the entire front of his palatial home. Windows were shattered across Defence, one of the city's most pricey neighbourhoods. And eight people lay dead: policemen, house guards and a mother and child who had been strolling to school.
Stepping through the rubble and blood, Aslam, who had survived eight previous attempts on his life, helped load the dead and injured into ambulances. (Miraculously, his own family was largely unhurt.) Then he turned to face the media with an extraordinary message of defiance.
"I will bury the attackers right here," he told the cameras, pointing to the two-metre-deep bomb crater, and vowing to launch his own "jihad" against his assailants. "I didn't know the terrorists were such cowards. Why don't they attack me in the open?" Then, sleepless and smeared in dust, he turned on his heel and went back to work.
Crime-fighting in Karachi, a sprawling seaside metropolis racked by a witch's brew of violence – ethnic, political, religious, criminal – has never been easy. So far this year, more than 400 people have died in shootings linked to a political power struggle. A surge in Taliban violence pumped the death toll further.
Few know the dark streets as well as Aslam, a grizzled police veteran of 27 years' experience. Profane, chain-smoking and usually armed with a Glock pistol, he has earned a controversial reputation as Karachi's version of Dirty Harry – the cop who will do whatever it takes to keep the peace.
Last year, they killed Rehman Dakait, a legendary Baloch gangster, in self defence in what was described as a shootout on the city limits. The dead man's relatives have another version: that he was arrested, tortured and shot in cold blood – circumstances Pakistanis euphemistically refer to as an "encounter". It was not the first such accusation against Aslam: he spent 18 months in jail in 2006 after being accused of killing an innocent man; a superior court later cleared him.
Working from an unmarked compound with military-style defences, Aslam roams Karachi at night in an armoured jeep. Protection comes from a team of heavily armed officers, many of whom resemble the gangsters they are pursuing: like their boss, they do not wear uniforms.
He typically works through the night because, he says, "that's when the criminals are out and about". He is proud of his gunslinging reputation. He has earned 45m rupees (£325,000) in government rewards over the years, he says, producing copies of the cheques to prove it.
Although flamboyant, Aslam is by no means unique among Pakistani police. A 2008 report by the International Crisis Group said they had "a well-deserved reputation for corruption, high-handedness and abuse of human rights". Officers retort that they are under-resourced (Karachi has 26,000 officers for perhaps 18 million people) and labour under a sickly criminal justice system with a conviction rate of 5-10%.
And, in a city where crime, politics and ethnicity are inter-connected, police suffer from massive interference: even junior appointments are controlled by politicians who pressure officers to go easy on their favourite gangsters. "It's a totally politicised force," admitted Sharifuddin Memon, an adviser to the provincial home minister...............
Here's a report on how Pakistan can learn lessons from policing in Norther Ireland:
Lessons from the reorganisation of policing in Northern Ireland could influence efforts to reform law and order in Pakistan, a human rights expert has said.
The sprawling south Asian country normally hits the headlines for violence related to the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.
But it is also struggling against internal unrest, while policing legislation in some regions dates back to colonial powers introduced in the 1800s.
Aideen Gilmore, who has monitored the reform of the justice system in Northern Ireland, was asked to join experts in Islamabad for discussions on the theme of "Policing in Conflict", co-hosted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, plus local human rights and lobby groups.
"The organisers were interested in hearing about the Northern Ireland experience of policing in conflict and particularly the process of police reform and how policing can be made more human rights compliant," she said.
"Generally, there was interest in how to move from a seemingly intractable conflict to one where the idea of change that is based on human rights and the rule of law becomes a possibility, and from there to the implementation of that change and the challenges that brings.
"Because of the problems with oversight and accountability of policing, participants were particularly interested in the models that we have developed and what is needed to make them effective, for example, the importance of a strong, effective and independent police complaints body."
The human rights expert came to prominence with the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and is on a career break as its deputy director to take part in a range of human rights consultancy work at home and abroad. The event in Pakistan also included human rights groups from the country, as well as retired police officers and government representatives.
"What was really striking was the level of internal conflict in the country - so much of the internationally reported news focuses on the international dimension, and particularly in relation to Afghanistan, problems in the border regions and relationships with the US, with little reporting on the impact on the people living in the country, where suicide bombings and attacks on the government and administration by the TTP (the Pakistan Taliban group) have claimed many lives and created a volatile and unsafe environment.
"So the challenge is protecting human rights and upholding the rule of law, and the role of the police in doing this, in a situation of conflict - something which Northern Ireland can offer much to learn from."
Here's BR on Australian forensic training for Pak law enforcement:
The Australian Government has introduced a new policy initiative to enhance its law enforcement engagement with Pakistan. a statement by Australian High Commission said on Friday.
A major component of this initiative belongs to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and its focus is on forensic capacity development across both federal and regional Pakistan.
The AFP Pakistan Forensic Capacity Building Project was developed as a result of this initiative. To date, the Project has successfully delivered nine forensic training courses in Canberra with a total of 88 participants from various Pakistani regions and relevant agencies.
The Australian High Commission and the AFP are very pleased to have achieved a significant milestone by successfully running the Project's first training course in Pakistan: Laboratory Management and Quality Systems which ran from 8 to 17 October 2012 at the Punjab Forensic Science Agency and included 21 participants from a range of areas and agencies within Pakistan.
Dr. James Robertson from the National Centre of Forensic Studies in Australia who was the key lecturer during this course said: "It has provided an excellent opportunity to reach a broader group of participants and also to enhance our own understanding of current forensic structures and capabilities in Pakistan, which in turn enables us to better understand how we can best deliver the remaining courses under this Project."
Dr Robertson also acknowledged the great achievement of the Punjab Government and Dr Mohammad Tahir in establishing the PFSA as a world class forensic laboratory.
The coming nine months for the AFP Project includes a variety of activities to further develop forensic capability in Pakistan, including two more training courses in Karachi and Lahore, two Forensic Leadership Forum meetings in Karachi, Islamabad and a number of training courses in Australia.
This Project continues to demonstrate the strong strategic relationship and even stronger friendship between Australia and Pakistan.
From UN Investigator Heraldo Munoz of Chile as published today:
Today, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was indicted in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The UN official who conducted the special investigation into her death recounts his own search for answers -- and why, he believes, most everyone is guilty.
Here's NY Times columnist David Brooks on security as a bigger problem than poverty in developing world:
If you’re reading this, you are probably not buffeted by daily waves of physical terror. You may fear job loss or emotional loss, but you probably don’t fear that somebody is going to slash your throat, or that a gang will invade your house come dinnertime, carrying away your kin and property. We take a basic level of order for granted.
But billions of people live in a different emotional landscape, enveloped by hidden terror. Many of these people live in the developing world.
When we send young people out to help these regions, we tell them they are there to tackle “poverty,” using the sort of economic designation we’re comfortable with. We usually assume that scarcity is the big challenge to be faced. We send them to dig wells or bring bed nets or distribute food or money, and, of course, that’s wonderful work.
But as Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros point out in their gripping and perspective-altering book, “The Locust Effect,” these places are not just grappling with poverty. They are marked by disorder, violence and man-inflicted suffering.
“The relentless threat of violence is part of the core subtext of their lives, but we are unlikely to see it, and they are unlikely to tell us about it. We would be wise, however, to not be fooled — because, like grief, the thing we cannot see may be the deepest part of their day.”
People in many parts of the world simply live beyond the apparatus of law and order. The District of Columbia spends about $850 per person per year on police. In Bangladesh, the government spends less than $1.50 per person per year on police. The cops are just not there.
In the United States, there is one prosecutor for every 12,000 citizens. In Malawi, there is one prosecutor for every 1.5 million citizens. The prosecutors are just not there.
Even when there is some legal system in place, it’s not designed to impose law and order for the people. It is there to protect the regime from the people. The well-connected want a legal system that can be bought and sold.
Haugen and Boutros tell the story of an 8-year-old Peruvian girl named Yuri whose body was found in the street one morning, her skull crushed in, her legs wrapped in cables and her underwear at her ankles. The evidence pointed to a member of one of the richer families in the town, so the police and prosecutors destroyed the evidence. Her clothing went missing. A sperm sample that could have identified the perpetrator was thrown out. A bloody mattress was sliced down by a third, so that the blood stained spot could be discarded....
The primary problem of politics is not creating growth. It’s creating order. Until that is largely achieved, life can be nasty, brutish and short.
Haugen is president of a human rights organization called the International Justice Mission, which tries to help people around the world build the institutions of law. One virtue of his group is that it stares evil in the eyes and helps local people confront the large and petty thugs who inflict such predatory cruelty on those around them. Not every aid organization is equipped to do this, to confront elemental human behavior when it exists unrestrained by effective law. It’s easier to avoid this reality, to have come-together moments in daytime.
Police training might be less uplifting than some of the other stories that attract donor dollars. But, in every society, order has to be wrung out of exploitation. Unless cruelty is tamed, poverty will persist.
"Physical evidence does not lie, it does not perjure itself as humans do," said the dapper 65-year-old Tahir. "It is a silent witness ... We make it speak in a court of law."
Tahir, a dual Pakistani and U.S. citizen, has his own forensics lab in the Unites States. He spent 36 years working with U.S. police and helped write the FBI handbook on forensics.
In 2008, with militant attacks rising in Pakistan, Punjab's chief minister called Tahir and asked for help: to design a new $31 million forensics lab in the city of Lahore, handpick its scientists and try to enforce new standards of crime solving.
The lab was finished in 2012 and at first, business was slow. But now the lab, which is funded by Punjab state, takes around 600 cases a day, Tahir said. It could easily handle twice that if more police start sending in evidence or suspects.
"The police are not educated, they don't know our capabilities. We have to teach them," he said.
PROBLEMS WITH POLICE
The gleaming new lab quickly discovered only a tiny fraction of police knew how to secure crime scenes and collect evidence. DNA samples were moldy. Guns arrived for analysis, smeared with officers' fingerprints.
"If garbage comes in, garbage goes out," explained one scientist at the lab during a recent Reuters visit, as his masked colleague unwrapped a bone from a woman's body found in a canal.
To change that, Tahir set up localized crime scene investigation units and began training police. Now the DNA department says around half the samples they receive are packaged correctly.
"They are getting better," Tahir said. So far 3,100 police out of a force of 185,000 have been trained.
But progress is slow. Punjab Police Inspector General Mushtaq Sukhera said police still secure "very few" crime scenes.
One detective was even found fingerprinting himself instead of the suspects for dozens of cases, an official working with the judicial system said.
Some police try to game the system. A prosecutor and a scientist told Reuters that police sometimes plant bullets at the crime scene and the gun on the suspect.
Courts usually treat police as unreliable. Any confession made to them is legally inadmissible because suspects are frequently tortured. Police argue they are becoming better at playing by the book.
"It used to be - you can say - a quick method of getting disclosure from the accused," said Sukhera. "(But now) I think very rarely the police torture."
Tahir has banned police from entering the lab to make sure they do not interfere with the process.
When Reuters visited the lab, police waited patiently in the basement, some clutching white cloth packages sealed with twine and red wax.
A dozen of them held bottles that were to be tested for alcohol, which is illegal in Pakistan. One had brought a pistol. Another held a box of body parts.
Once the lab makes a report, it goes to the prosecutor. But judges, lawyers and witnesses are often threatened or killed. Courts have a backlog of more than a million cases.
As a result, conviction rates are low. Anti-terrorism courts convict around a third of cases - about half of those are overturned on appeal. Fewer than a quarter of murder suspects are convicted.
But Tahir said that the lab has had some notable successes. One man confessed he poisoned his Scottish wife thanks to evidence from the toxicology and polygraph departments.
Two men claimed police planted suicide vests on them - but they were jailed after the lab's computer section recovered deleted videos from their phones confirming their wrongdoing. A man who raped and killed a 5-year-old in a mosque was identified by his DNA; seven other suspects were freed.
"On one hand, you have exonerated a man," said Tahir. "On the other you have found someone who has actually committed a crime. Nothing makes you happier." (Reuters)
A Washington Post report released earlier this week shed light on the Pakistani government’s incredibly ambitious plan to make it impossible to own a cellphone without providing biometric data to the government. As part of its plan, the Pakistani government will force phone service providers to terminate service for anyone who fails to provide fingerprints for use in a national database. As the report details, the government initiative is an outside-the-box attempt to make terrorism preventable and detectable in Pakistan. Pakistan suffers scores of deadly terror attacks every year at the hands of radical militant groups. Although the Pakistani military embarked on a major anti-terror offensive last year, Pakistan’s police and security apparatus remains woefully unequipped to prevent attacks.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority estimates there are at least 136 million cellphone subscribers in Pakistan. Pakistan, like other South Asian states, has witnessed explosive growth in personal cellphone ownership; in 2003 only 5 million Pakistanis owned cellphones.
Nawaz Sharif’s government has been under considerable pressure to appear strong on terrorism ever since the Taliban brutally murdered over 100 Pakistani school children at a school in Peshawar. If Sharif’s government wanted to show every Pakistani household that it was doing something, it chose the right way to do it. Pakistanis far and wide have taken notice of the government plan and are lining up to provide fingerprints lest they lose their connectivity. According to the report, “53 million SIMs belonging to 38 million residents have been verified through biometric screening.”
While the government’s plan appears to be serious and sufficiently “21st century” with its focus on cellphone activity, it is highly unlikely that Pakistani police and security agencies will be able to usefully leverage the biometric data gained through this initiative to prevent terror attacks. What the database will do is make it easier to track terror culprits after the fact.
Practicality aside, the initiative does raise some concerns about privacy. The Post article features a series of quotes by Ammar Jaffi, the former deputy director of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, that suggest the government has little interest in preserving convenience or privacy. Jaffri, for example, notes that Pakistanis should simply accept that a cellphone and SIM card are a “part of you,” adding that collecting biometric data on cellphone users is something Pakistan “shouldn’t be afraid of.” “Watching people when they move, it’s natural: Every country does it,” he adds. The Post report suggests that Pakistan’s terror-weary population is eager to try anything to prevent more attacks. After the brutality that befell Peshawar in December, the Pakistani public is desperate for a solution.
Still, anything the government can do to make communication and coordination more difficult for terrorists is a good thing. The United States has long been eager to see Pakistan take up the issue of domestic terrorism and it finally seems to be doing so. U.S. intelligence agencies have the necessary competencies and experience to make effective sense of large biometric databases, particularly given the proliferation of biometric information collection following 9/11 across the country. They should share best practices with Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. Even if the skeptics prove right and this initiative is nothing more than an attempt by the Sharif government to be seen as doing “something” to combat terrorism, the resulting database, with the right analytical infrastructure, could prove immensely useful for counter-terrorism.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Cellphones didn’t just arrive in Pakistan. But someone could be fooled into thinking otherwise, considering the tens of millions of Pakistanis pouring into mobile phone stores these days.
In one of the world’s largest — and fastest — efforts to collect biometric information, Pakistan has ordered cellphone users to verify their identities through fingerprints for a national database being compiled to curb terrorism. If they don’t, their service will be shut off, an unthinkable option for many after a dozen years of explosive growth in cellphone usage here.
Prompted by concerns about a proliferation of illegal and untraceable SIM cards, the directive is the most visible step so far in Pakistan’s efforts to restore law and order after Taliban militants killed 150 students and teachers at a school in December. Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers.
[Related: After years of delays, Pakistan cracks down on violent Islamists]
But the effort to match one person to each cellphone number involves a jaw-dropping amount of work. At the start of this year, there were 103 million SIM cards in Pakistan — roughly the number of the adult population — that officials were not sure were valid or properly registered. And mobile companies have until April 15 to verify the owners of all of the cards, which are tiny chips in cellphones that carry a subscriber’s personal security and identity information.
In the past six weeks, 53 million SIMs belonging to 38 million residents have been verified through biometric screening, officials said.
“Once the verification of each and every SIM is done, coupled with blocking unverified SIMs, the terrorists will no longer have this tool,” said a senior Interior Ministry official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the government’s security policy. “The government knows that it’s an arduous job, both for the cellular companies and their customers, but this has to be done as a national duty.”
As Pakistan’s decade-long struggle against Islamist extremism has stretched on, residents have grown accustomed to hassles such as long security lines and police checkpoints. Now they must add the inconvenience of rushing into a retail store to keep their phones on.
“I spend all day working and sometimes have to work till late in the night. . . . I cannot afford to stand in line for hours to have my SIM verified,” said Abid Ali Shah, 50, a taxi driver who was waiting to be fingerprinted at a cellphone store. “But if I don’t do it, my phone is my only source of communication that I have to remain in touch with my family.”
Though Pakistan’s first cellphone company launched in 1991, there was only sparse usage until the turn of the 21st century. Since then, the number of cellphone subscribers has grown from about 5 million in 2003 to about 136 million today, according to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.
The mobile phone subscription rate now stands at about 73 percent, roughly equal to the rate in neighboring India, according to the World Bank. It’s even common for Pakistanis in remote or mountainous areas, where electricity can be sporadic and few have access to vehicles, to own a cellphone.
With 50 million more SIM cards left to be verified, phone companies are dispatching outreach teams deep into the countryside and mountains to notify customers of the policy.
“It’s a massive, nationwide exercise with a tight deadline, but hopefully we will be able to verify our customers by the April deadline,” said Omar Manzur, an executive at Mobilink, which has 38 million customers in Pakistan. “We have sent out 700 mobile vans all across Pakistan to reach out to these far-flung areas, the villages and small towns.”
Islamabad: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Thursday extended deadline for biometric verification of Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) until March 14.
Earlier, the government had set February 26 deadline to block all illegal mobile SIMs.
The target of verifying more around 100 million SIMs could not be achieved and only 50.76 million could be verified as at February 26.
According to PTA, 140 million SIMs are being used across the country while 10 million suspicious and unregistered SIMs have been blocked so far.
Keeping in view the current law and order situation, the government has taken this measure so that all Non BVS SIMs could be blocked.
Verification of SIMs could curb the misuse of mobile phones in terrorism, kidnapping, extortion and other felonies.
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