KARACHI -- Sindh Police have issued detailed guidelines for security forces to follow in order to spot potential suicide bombers and prevent them from reaching their targets.
The guidelines were distributed September 18 to all police stations and district officers, and police are calling on citizens to co-operate in the fight against terrorism.
Suicide bombers can be men or women, and are usually between the ages of 12 and 24, according to the Sindh Police circular. Men are usually clean-shaven, have trimmed haircuts and are dressed according to their surroundings.
The suicide bomber usually has a plump shape, as he or she is wearing an explosives vest under new clothes. Their shoulders will slump slightly downwards under the weight of the explosives, the guidelines say.
They often will be carrying prayer beads and are unlikely to pay attention to anyone as they approach their target, the guidelines say.
The guidelines go on to explain that police officers should not shoot the suicide bomber, but rather disable them with an electric stun gun. Police should also attempt to hold and grapple the suspect from behind, making sure his or her fists remain open.
Public must co-operate with police
"Suicide bombings have become the defining act of political violence of our time," Additional Inspector General of Police Karachi Mushtaq Mehar told Pakistan Forward.
"We need a strategy to counter terrorism in these situations," he said, urging citizens to co-operate with police in this regard. "We can execute that strategy successfully only with the public's help."
People should share information with the police if they sense any dubious activities or elements in their surroundings, he said.
The goal is to arrest terrorists before they can act, Mehar said. Police and citizens alike must be vigilant and alert so as to stop suicide attackers before they reach their targets.
Police are taking full advantage of the latest and most sophisticated technology, including surveillance, mobile forensic labs, criminal sketch software, criminal indexing software and intelligence networks for the prevention of serious crimes.
"Solid measures have been taken to effectively counter terrorism by equipping the police force with modern training, [technology] and weapons," he said.
"The war against terrorism, however, can only be won with the help of every citizen," he said. "There is need to extend their co-operation with the police to ensure that anti-state elements are removed from society."
Countering violence in society
"An inevitable side effect of the extremists' threat to the state is the citizens' increased reliance on violence [to resolve] day-to-day affairs," said Muhammad Hafeez, former dean of the sociology department at the University of Punjab.
"The space for negotiated settlement of differences between groups and individuals, even over petty issues, has shrunk, and resort to violence has become the first option with an increasingly large number of people," he told Pakistan Forward.
The Taliban, sectarianism and ethnic rivalries are all factors behind the violence and extremism in society, he said.
"To develop a comprehensive approach [to counter] extremism, it is imperative to recognise [these] motivating factors," he said.
"We must recognise that terrorism is a common menace and therefore combine forces to exterminate the scourge from our land," he said. "What is needed is a broad-based programme to prevent young men from joining militant groups and to reclaim the militants who are amenable to reason."
Hafeez suggested that apart from making radical changes in school textbooks, there is need for promoting the progressive values of Islam based on research across the world so that the theoretical premises of extremism can be challenged.
Addressing root causes of extremism
Suicide bombings have become the main instrument of terrorist attacks for the past 10 years for a number of reasons, according to Pakistan Army Brig. (ret.) Rashid Ali Malik, a security analyst based in Karachi.
"Such an attack is relatively easy to plan and execute," he explained. "It kills many and does not require elaborate planning."
Suicide bombers may be motivated by the violence they or their families have witnessed or by extreme poverty, while others are motivated or brainwashed by extremists, he told Pakistan Forward.
Poverty, deprivation, illiteracy and unemployment breed extremism, he said. Women also are susceptible to these factors, he added.
"Therefore, poverty alleviation, unemployment reduction, promotion of education, sports and other recreational activities, and uplifting the overall socio-economic condition of the people can surely reduce extremism and terrorism," Malik said.
He credited the National Action Plan (NAP) and the counter-terrorism military Operation Zarb-e-Azb with decreasing violence in Pakistan.
"The growing cult of the suicide bomber is a reality that urgently needs to be addressed," he said. "The military campaign in Pakistan's tribal belt and its largest city [Karachi] has been credited with reducing terrorist attacks and other crimes."
"Prior to the NAP, terrorists were not awarded their sentences due to certain flaws in prosecution, law and judicial system," he said. "In the past, terrorists got opportunities to promote their terrorist activities due to the lack of an effective legal system, which is no longer the case."