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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Aug 20, 2013

Experts deconstruct Aug 15 standoff, discuss crisis response mechanisms

The
police should be reconfigured along modern lines to combat modern challenges
and emergencies in the wake of the Jinnah Avenue incident, experts said on
Monday.

They
were speaking at a seminar titled, “Armed Man Episode in Islamabad: Lessons
Learnt in Crisis Management and Ethical Media Practices” organised by the
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

The
speakers discussed crisis response mechanisms in Pakistani cities, the
capabilities of law enforcement agencies and the live broadcast of the August
15 standoff.

They
said the hours-long saga wherein a single gunman engaged the security forces
was a failure of leadership and showed non-professionalism on the part of the
capital’s police force.

The
speakers called for institutional independence and steps for improving the
police’s morale.

They
also urged the media to consider the ethical ramifications of reporting on
crisis situations.

Ejaz
Haider, TV anchor and analyst, expressed concerns over the capabilities of law
enforcement agencies to deal with urban crisis management.

"Countering
terrorism in urban centres is a complex task which requires adopting a modern
professional approach, standard operating procedures and regular training,"
Haider said.

He
added journalists should be sensitised on crisis reporting.

Dr
Moeed Yousaf, TV personality and analyst, said the August 15 standoff may
further increase the indecisiveness of the police in dealing with future
pressure situations. He said the government must draw some lines as the future
of counter-terrorism activities would be fought in urban centres.

He
criticised the role of politicians during the Jinnah Avenue standoff.

"If
this had happened in any Western country, Zamarud Khan would have been behind
bars for taking the law into his own hands and risking the lives of others,"
Yousaf said.

Former
interior secretary Syed Kamal Shah said the first duty of the police should
have been to cordon off the area effectively. The police were not able to
completely clear the area off from the public and media crews even until the
time the gunman was captured.

Shah
said the public is neither sensitised nor educated regarding their
responsibility to keep an eye on anti-state and disgruntled elements.

"The
media has played an immature role," he said. "Running commentary and live
coverage of the movement of our elite and commando force jeopardised the
operation."

Afzal
Ali Shigri, former inspector general of police, said it was time for Pakistanis
to take a long and hard look at the way stakeholders must respond to emergency
situations such as hostage crises or militant attacks.

He
added the police have staff trained in tactical and operational skills but do
not have the resources to adequately counter incidents such as the Dera Ismail
Khan jailbreak.

Shigri
said the police department should have a trained public relations wing to
handle the media in such situations.