Three more Customs officials martyred in DI Khan attack

Arshad Aziz Malik & Qayyum Nawaz Babar
Monday, Apr 22, 2024

PESHAWAR/DI KHAN: Three more Customs officials were martyred and one injured in an ambush by unidentified gunmen here on Sunday, officials said. The terror act occurred near CPEC’s Yarik Toll Plaza early in the day, added the officials.

They said the officials of Anti-Smuggling Unit of the Customs were performing duty when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their vehicle.

As a result, Inspector Hussain, 30, a resident of Hazara Division, Sepoy Aamir Khattak, son of Gul Wali, 25, Karak district, and Sepoy Ziad Khan, 26, son of Saeed Khan, Haripur district, lost their lives on the spot. Another sepoy, Ajmal, son of Fazlur Rehman, a resident of Shorkot, was injured in the targeted attack.

Police and security forces personnel rushed to the site, the area was cordoned off and a search launched to arrest the suspects.

This was the second such attack on the Customs officials in the district within a week.

Five Customs officials and two civilians, including a child, were martyred in a similar terror attack in the district three days back.

KP Governor Ghulam expressed grief over the martyrdom of Customs officials in Dera Ismail Khan. He condemned the incident and extended heartfelt sympathies to the families of martyrs.

Meanwhile, sources said the attacks on Customs personnel in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have increased to an alarming level.

They said Customs officials violate SOPs and expose themselves and become soft targets for terrorists. After the crackdown on smugglers and drug dealers in KP, terrorists have started targeting Customs officials. Terrorists and smugglers have a close nexus and black money is used in terror financing. In the last three days, around 8 Customs officials were martyred in two incidents in the DI Khan region.

The Regional Police Officer (RPO), DI Khan, Nasir Mehmood Satti, told this correspondent that the security forces and police have recently conducted numerous Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) and neutralised more than 35 terrorists in the last two months alone. To fully neutralise the threat, many such joint intelligence operations are also in the offing to further dent the nefarious designs of miscreants.

Nasir said the threat posed by terrorists persists as retaliation, especially against LEAs which are relatively less equipped and are soft targets such as officials from Customs, Excise departments, etc, can come.

The DIG said the random selection of soft targets by terrorists further needs interdepartmental cooperation, collaboration, and information sharing is indispensable in thwarting terrorist plots due to its complex and multifaceted nature.

He said it has been, however, recently observed that a few allied departments, especially officials of the Customs & Excise Departments, sometimes needlessly expose themselves as soft targets, resulting in tragic loss of lives. He said Customs officials again exposed themselves without any intimation to the police on April 20.

An official of Customs confirmed that after the crackdown on smugglers and drug dealers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, terrorists have started targeting Customs officials.

Officials also confirmed only 200 Customs officials are working in the southern areas of the province, including the merged districts. The Customs in KP, especially in southern region, are facing a shortage of staff, vehicles, weapons and funds. Dr Karam Elahi, Collector, Collectorate of Customs Enforcement, Dera Ismail Khan, told this correspondent that the region has only 200 officials from Kohat to DI Khan, including the merged districts. He said the personnel have been instructed to work during day hours but in case of any special duty at night, all law enforcement agencies must be informed. “The staff was patrolling on the main road when a car crossed them and opened fire. Three officers were martyred and one injured,” he said.

He said that during the last few months, the Directorate of Customs, DI Khan, has achieved extraordinary success. The officials confiscated around Rs3,790 million non-customs paid items including diesel, tires, mobiles, cars, cigarettes, and other items, which is 568 percent higher than the previous year. Approximately, Rs440 million revenue was collected. The collector said smugglers and drug dealers are using modern weapons and vehicles but the Customs staff was still chasing them. It is pertinent to mention that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reaffirmed his resolve to purge the country of smuggling and directed the authorities concerned to accelerate the nationwide drive against the menace. The PM also asked the LEAs and intelligence agencies to cooperate with each other to curb smuggling.