Govt launches community police in Swat
* Police chief says recruitment essential as displaced return to area * Expert claims community police best means to restore peace in Swat
Daily Times, August 6, 2009
MINGORA: The country has armed and appointed the first community police force in Swat, hoping to prevent a Taliban resurgence and bolster the capacity of security forces depleted by beheadings and mass desertions.
A calm — however tense — has returned to the district, more than three months after Islamabad ordered the military to wage a blistering air and ground assault against Taliban fighters who effectively ruled the area.a.
But civilian and military officials say peace depends on a properly trained and equipped police force, which, under an effective civil administration, must fill the security vacuum and prevent the Taliban return.
Very Important: New Swat police chief Sajid Khan Mohmand says the answer lies in his drive to recruit community police, particularly as hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians return to the valley.
“Community police have started to function at local police stations in the valley. They’ll work alongside regular police and help them deal with the Taliban effectively. We have already received 1,600 applications,” he said.
Regular police are not always from the neighbourhoods in which they work, so the community officers should help root out militants by telling them who’s who and keeping their finger on the pulse.
They are chosen by tribal elders for their clean credentials and strong physique and will earn a monthly salary of Rs 10,000. If needed on patrol, community police are armed with Chinese-made assault rifles, 10 rounds of ammunition and a bulletproof jacket, Mohmand said.
His ambitious plans to recruit nearly 4,000 men — should they come to fruition — would significantly bolster the ranks of the police force, which he estimates at around 2,200 in Swat.
The government claims the military has “eliminated” the Taliban, two years after they rose up under radical cleric Fazlullah to enforce repressive laws and more than three months after launching a new offensive under US pressure.
Law enforcement staff were frontline victims of the thousands of extremists who fought under Fazlullah.
Petrified by a campaign of intimidation and brutal beheadings, hundreds of police deserted as successive military operations failed to subdue the Taliban. Mohmand said at least 91 police officials were killed, mostly in bomb attacks and beheadings.
Best option: Retired brigadier and security expert Mahmood Shah said community police were the best means to restore peace in Swat but stressed that success or failure would depend on their being properly trained in policing and insurgency. “This is the best step to restore peace in Swat,” he said. afp
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