KP inaugurates bomb-proof security checkpoints along FATA perimeter

By Muhammad Ahil

A police officer enters a newly established police post on the border between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas March 19. [Muhammad Ahil]

A police officer enters a newly established police post on the border between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas March 19. [Muhammad Ahil]

PESHAWAR -- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has completed construction and upgrades of the "security crescent" along the border of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Frontier Regions.

KP Inspector General of Police Salahuddin Khan Mehsud March 19 inaugurated the security cordon, which comprises 31 checkpoints designed to resist bomb blasts.

The cordon was set up to "save the settled areas of KP from any kind of attack", Mehsud told Pakistan Forward.

"The main focus is to stop militants or terrorists attacking from the tribal areas, as in the past we have seen frequent militant attacks against settled areas of KP and other areas of the country from FATA," he said.

The KP government spent Rs. 800 million ($6.9 million) on the 31 checkpoints, of which eight are operational. The rest will become functional soon, he said.

About 700-800 police officers will be deployed across all 31 checkpoints following approval by the government, Mehsud said.

Vehicles, weapons and communication devices will come from the KP Police and the checkpoint personnel will employ them following government approval, he said. The checkpoints also will be responsible for conducting surveillance on militants and drug traffickers.

First line of defence against militants

The new checkpoints will be equipped with the latest technology, helping secure urban areas in KP from terrorist threats that have killed many security personnel and civilians in the past, according to security analysts.

The checkpoints also fill a security vacuum that resulted from the disbanding of the militia that previously guarded the Frontier Region buffer zone, following the launch of operations by the Pakistani army in the area.

Such militias, which locals formed to protect themselves against militants, effectively controlled criminal activities such as trafficking of weapons, drugs and humans.

"The bomb-proof checkpoints are important for the security and defence of the settled part of KP," Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah, a Peshawar-based security analyst and former security secretary for FATA, told Pakistan Forward.

Threats still exist, and such checkpoints will be the first line of defence against them, he said.

The checkpoints "are very much needed in modern warfare", Shah said, adding that "they will also be helpful in countering militant attacks from FATA against settled KP."

"Pakistan has warded off cross-border infiltration of terrorists by establishing checkpoints along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and now the establishment of bomb-proof checkpoints along the border of settled areas with FATA will effectively increase the security of urban KP," he said.

Improving confidence of police

"It's a great initiative by the KP Police to guard the buffer zone between FATA and KP with highly equipped, bomb-proof checkpoints, as it was imperative to strengthen the first line of defense against terrorism," University of Peshawar Professor Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi, a specialist on tribal affairs and counter-terrorism, told Pakistan Forward.

The safety of the bomb-proof checkpoints will enhance the confidence of the police officers on guard, because they will recognise that authorities value the officers' lives, he said.

"The bomb-proof checkpoint initiative along the troubled tribal areas will ensure the safety and security of major cities, as most of the threats will be countered by [ensuring the safety of police officers]," said Soherwordi.

"It will also give a psychological edge to the security forces over terrorists, who won't dare to attack a target that they can't take over or damage," he said.

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