Bisham inquiry report shines light on security protocol lapses

Arshad Aziz Malik
Sunday, Apr 14, 2024

PESHAWAR: Contrary to the inquiry report on the Bisham incident, the federal government has suspended Regional Police Officer (RPO) Hazara, whose name was not included in the inquiry report. Sources confirmed that DPO Lower Kohistan was also not held responsible in the report sent to the prime minister.

Five Chinese engineers working on Dasu Dam were killed when an explosive-laden vehicle hit the bus they were traveling in on the Karakoram Highway in the Bisham area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on March 27, 2024. The report of the three-member inquiry committee, led by Federal Secretary Rashid Mahmood Langrial, revealed that Director Security Dasu hydro-power project was mainly responsible for various lapses in ensuring security for the convoy.

The federal government issued orders to suspend Regional Police Officer DIG Hazara Ejaz Khan, DPOs of Upper Kohistan and Lower Kohistan, Jameel Akhtar and Sulaiman Ahmed. Apart from this, Commandant CPEC Security Unit Zafar Ali was also suspended for not making better security arrangements.

The punitive action came as a surprise to the extent of RPO Hazara, as his name was not included in the inquiry report.

The data revealed that local police provided security to 277 foreign convoys during the last two years. Sixty-one convoys peacefully passed in 2022, while 175 foreign convoys were given fool-proof security during 2023. Some 44 convoys were given security during the last 90 days in the current year.

The report said certain provisions of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for security of foreign nationals, engaged in non-CPEC projects, are perfunctory and often repetitive. For instance, the task of periodic security audit of non-CPEC projects is separately assigned to IB, DPO, and FNSC, thus duplicating the same functions and unnecessary risk of non-compliance. The report reveals that there is no provision for unity of command in the notified task force for security of the Dasu hydro power project, crucial for dealing with emergent situations with multi-stakeholders.

The notification number F. No. 5/1/2023-KP August 5, 2023 of the task force needs revision to designate a lead. Clauses 11.4.2 and 11.4.3 of the SOPs require that the vehicle needs to be “bulletproof/ bomb proof”. The forensic report of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency indicated that the vehicle was bulletproof but not explosion-proof. However, the initial report of the Counter-Terrorism Department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, indicated that the vehicle was not bulletproof. The factual controversy would be clarified upon receiving the report of JIT.

The report said Director Security Dasu hydro power project notified the movement of the convoy to only DPO Upper Kohistan, which reached the latter through conventional mail on March 25, 2024 i.e. the day of its departure from Dasu to Islamabad, instead of seven days before the movement. No information was provided to the DPOs of concerned districts and the sections of National Highways and Motorways Police.

Moreover, neither prior approval for inter-city movement was sought by WAPDA authorities as required under Clause 11.4.2 of the SOPs nor was the movement plan shared with the FNSC at the federal and provincial levels, as required. According to the findings, Director Security Dasu hydro-power project was responsible for the lapses.

The report said the DPO Upper Kohistan received the information through his local WhatsApp group on March 24, 2024, who neither communicated it to Commandant SSU nor any other DPO, except DPO Lower Kohistan. The DPO Upper Kohistan was responsible for that lapse.

DPO Upper Kohistan was not familiar with the use of Foreign Nationals Security Dashboard and consequently did not update the movement plan in it. DPO Upper Kohistan is responsible for not updating the FNSD.

The report further said that WAPDA has been providing security paraphernalia for the movement of Chinese nationals through its own security guards and active units of Frontier Corps and Gilgit Scouts acquired through secondment by not following SOP clause 2 whereby SSU is the lead agency. Director Security Dasu hydro-power project is responsible for the aforementioned lapse.

Allocation of 1 per cent of project cost for security purposes of the project created an environment of non-cooperation and discord between WAPDA and SSU, which was evident from the fact that WAPDA did not sign the contract for provision of security with the SSU.

On the other hand, SSU also did not take responsibility on the same pretext as admitted by the commandant SSU before the inquiry committee. The Director Security Dasu hydro-power project as well as commandant SSU were both responsible for this lapse. Provision of security was the responsibility of the state without any preconditions; therefore, linking security to any contractual commitment to pay for it is fundamentally flawed.

The SOP states that on the receipt of a request from foreigners, DD Security of the project will inform the local police and all the district police en route in writing followed by a telephone call regarding the subject movement so that all security measures are taken by all the district police.

However, the inquiry report revealed that DD Security had informed only DPO Upper Kohistan through WhatsApp, which was a clear violation of the SOP. Furthermore, the Regional Police chief has no role in this movement.

Former Inspector General of Police Syed Akhtar Ali Shah told this correspondent that the DIG Hazara had been made a scapegoat to avoid their follies. The security of the Chinese is a direct responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. “This is intelligence failure rather than the negligence of police. RPO has no role in the security of foreign conveys,” he said.

Akhtar Ali said the inquiry committee has overlooked many important aspects. Most importantly, how come an explosive-laden truck got ingress through the Chaman check-post? Who had cleared the truck at that point and subsequently at other cross-prohibit points? Why scanning machines were not used, he asked.