The Faltering State: Pakistan’s Internal Security Landscape
Rana Banerji ·       

The Faltering State: Pakistan's Internal Security Landscape is an anguished cry of the honest policeman who has the courage to say 'no' to illegal interference by those in authority. The book narrates in considerable detail what has gone wrong with the administering of law and order, and other internal security challenges in a society beset with corruption, political interference, rising radicalism, sectarian schisms and the menace of terrorism turning inwards to erode the vitals of the state.

An officer of the 1973 batch of the Pakistan Police, Tariq Khosa hails from an eminent tribal family of Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan. Though resident in Punjab, the family has Baloch tribal lineage. His father, Faiz Mohd Khosa was an associate of Mohd Ali Jinnah. His younger siblings have attained high positions; Nasir serving as chief secretary, Punjab, and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who headed the Supreme Court bench disqualifying Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case, now waiting to become the next chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Khosa was the first and only Baloch inspector general of police in Balochistan, albeit for a short lived tenure from January 2007 to November 2007. He was instrumental in extending direct police jurisdiction to many of the 'b' areas of the province; later administered by locally recruited levies. Khosa was critical of "the all powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)'s" excessive influence in investigations against insurgents. He did not approve of "the security establishment’s tunnel vision and tit-for-tat killings," with the state apparently being helpless against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants. With the recent resurgence of the LeJ-al Alami, Khosa regrets that prolonged political apathy has caused the vitally important province to languish today "between the Devil and the Deep State."

Khosa was director general of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) when Mumbai 26/11 happened. Despite obstacles from the Pakistani 'deep state', his team of investigators quickly and clearly established that
I) Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani national who joined a banned militant organisation,

II) the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists were imparted training near Thatta, Sindh, and were later launched by sea from there. The training camp was identified and secured, casings of explosive devices used in Mumbai were recovered from there and duly matched,

III) the fishing trawler used by the terrorists which was brought back to Karachi harbour, painted and concealed, was recovered by the investigators and connected to the accused,

IV) the engine of the dinghy abandoned by the terrorists near Mumbai contained a patent number which the investigators traced back to import from Japan to Lahore and then to a Karachi shop where an LeT linked militant purchased it,

V) the money trail was followed and linked to the arrested seven,

VI) the 'operations room' of the militants in Karachi was also identified and secured and the communications network through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) unearthed.

Khosa boldly acknowledged all these actions. His article on this subject written in July 2014 was published in Dawn on 3 August 2014. It brought him accolades from Indian media and predictably, a deluge of hate mail from some Pakistanis bent on living in denial. Khosa had to write a letter to the Dawn editor on 6 August, explaining that his team had only done a thoroughly professional job. He reminded his own country and people, "..are we as a nation prepared to muster the courage to face uncomfortable truths and combat the demons of militancy that haunt our land.." Elsewhere in the book, Khosa laments the delay in the Lakhvi trial following the FIA prosecutor’s murder. He mentions the need for legal luminaries from both India and Pakistan to sit together and take to logical culmination this complex case with "two jurisdictions and two trials," "rather than sulk and point fingers" at each other.

In October 2007, Khosa recalls, he was inspector general of police in Balochistan when Benazir Bhutto’s convoy was attacked in Karachi on her return from exile. Two months later, she was assassinated as she was leaving a public rally in Rawalpindi. After the UN launched a formal probe into her death, Khosa as DG, FIA, was assigned the follow-up investigation in August 2009. Codenamed 'Operation Trojan Horse', the investigators interrogated the five accused and found some crucial leads suggesting the arrest of one Ibadur Rehman, a resident of Malakand. A suspect security guard in Benazir’s detail in Rawalpindi, Khalid Shahenshah, who was seen signalling to someone as she left the meeting ground in Pindi was another lead. However, these leads led to a dead-end following the reported killing of the former in a drone strike in May 2010 and the mysterious killing of Shahenshah in Karachi. By then, however, Khosa had been unceremoniously "kicked upwards" as DG, Narcotics Control after receiving a late night call from President Zardari, complaining about "this not being a perfect world" and holding that "my Ministers are not happy with you.." because of the agency’s investigations against several cabinet members indulging in corruption, human trafficking and money laundering cases.

When Khosa was police chief of Lahore in 1992, he arrested Riaz Basra, the Sipah-e-Sahaba terrorist. Despite requesting for his trial inside the jail, after his transfer in 1994, Basra was taken from jail to the Model Town Courts complex from where he escaped from the judicial lock up. When DIG, Faislabad in August 1997, Khosa was able to apprehend another dreaded criminal of the same ilk, Malik Ishaq, but the LeJ mastermind managed to manipulate a faulty criminal justice system through suspected patronage from political and security elements. Khosa laments, "in a nutshell, indifference, apathy and even collusion with elements of state...resulted in our nation paying a heavy price in terms of violence and bloodshed."

Earlier, as a young superintendent of police in Quetta in 1981, Khosa arrested, among others, Gulbadin Hikmatyar while raiding a group of unruly Kalashnikov-holding Pakhtuns. Soon, the IG was on the telephone, complaining that President Zia-ul-Haq was jumping for Hikmatyar’s release! This was duly done, rushing through legal formalities. The young officer was learning the ropes of survival in the system.

Since his retirement in 2011, Khosa has been associated with framing several reports on police reform as also in drafting the National Action Plan to counter terrorism after the Peshawar Army School carnage of December 2014.  He believes this is a crucial juncture for police reforms. Past attempts at change did not gain real traction and many of these recommendations have not been properly implemented. Police services need to be operationally autonomous, accountable and service-oriented but inured from undue interference, enabling the ability to conduct investigations without fear or favour. Proper political milieu for this has not evolved.

Referring generally to law and order in Punjab, Khosa points out, "One party, one family and one man have ruled the most populous and prosperous province of Punjab for over two decades." He says, "Shahbaz Sharif has acquired a certain reputation of governing with an iron fist and a sharp tongue for recalcitrant officialdom." Shahbaz could do so partly because he also had "the advantage of the elder brother being the prime minister." This did not rule out "frequent changes of police chiefs and political influence at the district, sub-division and station level." Though long retired by then, Khosa has no hesitation in acknowledging that the June 17 2014  Model Town incident was "a blot on the face of the Punjab Police," tainting the reputation of the "strongman" heading the province. "Brutal use of the police for political vendettas left an indelible mark of ignominy for the Punjab government," Khosa adds - an ominous comment at a moment of expected ascension to higher responsibilities for Shahbaz Sharif.

In different parts of the book, Khosa is critical not only of the political executive but also the 'deep state', meaning the military establishment. Referring to the compromise release 'surreptitiously' worked out in the Raymond Davis case (March 2011), invoking provisions of diyat or compensation - money under Islamic law - Khosa remarks, "if a military chief (Kayani, aided by DG, ISI Pasha) resorts to informal is kosher," but "if the political leadership tries to convey a message through informal sources, the establishment cries 'foul'. Heads we win, tails you lose is their mantra.” There is a connected reference here to the 'Memogate' case involving Hussain Haqqani. Apparently, Khosa was sounded out to be an independent investigator in the case but he tactfully declined. Khosa observes ruefully in this context, "The establishment has acquired the art of turning its strategic follies to triumphs. It is this deep state that has curtailed and trimmed democracy, ensuring that the country stays rigged in favour of a small but self-aggrandizing elite. Until that changes, democracy in Pakistan will remain imperilled." Strong words, indeed.

Though Khosa commends concerted action against some terrorists under the regime of former Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif (his book went to press before Bajwa’s Radd ul-Fassad operations), he "is not sure if there is a will to dismantle the militant organisations that have acted as strategic assets in the regional context." A sobering thought, after essential reading of a very candid and soul-searching work.