PESHAWAR -- A recent award for heroism underscores the matter-of-fact way in which the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) courts death every day.
On November 8, KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nasir Khan Durrani in Peshawar issued the award to four BDU members, including expert Zahid Khan.
On October 25 in Peshawar, Zahid survived an explosion from a bomb that he was defusing thanks to the protective gear that he was wearing.
"The bomb disposal experts of the KP Police do the most dangerous job with their commitment to save more and more lives," Durrani told Pakistan Forward.
All BDU men are heroes, he said.
At the time of the explosion, Zahid, an experienced BDU officer who has defused many bombs in the past few months, was helping secure the Daudzai area after another explosive killed a policeman in the area. The slain officer had been guarding a team of polio vaccinators.
The police called Zahid's team to defuse other explosive devices planted in the area, Zahid told Pakistan Forward, adding that he found one left behind as a booby trap for police.
"The explosive went off while I was defusing it," he said. "My protective gear kept me unharmed."
A team of heroes
Every single member of the BDU is ready to sacrifice his life, BDU chief and Assistant IGP Shafqat Malik told Pakistan Forward.
Fifteen members of the BDU have made the ultimate sacrifice since 2009, he added.
That tragic list includes Hukam Khan and Abdul Haq, who defused hundreds of bombs each before their luck ran out.
Another top BDU member, Inayatullah, a.k.a. the Tiger, lost his leg in an explosion.
"I feel proud to have sacrificed for my country and will continue to work for my people throughout my life," Inayatullah told a function in Peshawar in August.
Another two BDU members, Shakir Khan and Ghazan Khan, suffered minor injuries when a bomb exploded during their defusing efforts in Peshawar on November 9. They are reportedly out of danger and recuperating.
Authorities in KP have tried to reduce the risk that BDU personnel endure daily.
Recently, KP acquired robots for defusing bombs, but so far the robots are capable only of working on flat surfaces.
BDU members try to exercise prevention too, by sweeping public areas with explosive detectors ahead of any planned major event.
Region rife with bombing
In the past decade, KP has been rocked by thousands of bombings, rocket barrages and assassinations.
At one point a bomb exploded almost daily in Peshawar.
Security improved nationwide after the army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June 2014, but even during the worst years, the BDU's courage never flagged, officials say.
"The brave men of the BDU have defused more than 6,000 bombs in KP in the past seven years," IGP Durrani said.