KP Police raise watchtowers to boost airport security

By Javed Khan

Construction proceeds on a watchtower in the Badhaber area near Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar August 30. [Javed Khan]

Construction proceeds on a watchtower in the Badhaber area near Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar August 30. [Javed Khan]

PESHAWAR -- Construction of eight security watchtowers in the areas surrounding Bacha Khan International Airport is almost complete, according to Peshawar police.

The watchtowers aim to protect both commercial and military airplanes that land or take off from the airport.

"Almost 80% of the work on three watchtowers has been completed in [the nearby] villages of Bazid Khel, Gulbahara and Pishtakhara Payan," Peshawar Capital City Police Officer Qazi Jamil ur Rehman told Pakistan Forward September 6. "About 75% of the work has been completed on three other watchtowers in Tehkal, Mashokhel and Suleman Khel."

"In the Sarband area in western Peshawar, nearly 65% of the work on another tower has been completed while work is going to kick off soon on another tower in Palosai village," he said.

Construction of the first six watchtowers is expected to conclude in the coming weeks, although authorities did not provide an exact date.

Police special forces are being recruited to secure the airport's surroundings while search and clearance operations occur regularly in nearby villages to identify and weed out suspicious elements, Qazi said.

"About 20 bombproof posts in the outskirts of Peshawar have been handed over to the city police ... to counter any attacks on important installations in Peshawar," he said. "Work on 11 other posts is under way. They will be handed over to police soon."

Improving airport security

The watchtowers surrounding Bacha Khan Airport are expected to significantly improve security around the airport as well as in the areas and villages nearby.

"The watchtowers will ensure security for arriving and departing flights from Peshawar," said Nasir Khan Durrani, former inspector general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police, who proposed the construction of the watchtowers in December 2014.

He suggested their construction after two planes came under fire in mid-air minutes before landing at Bacha Khan Airport.

In one such attack in June 2014, a female passenger was killed and two crew members were wounded when a barrage of bullets fired from the ground hit a Pakistan International Airlines plane. Police arrested a number of suspects during search and strike operations in the airport funnel zone after the attack.

In August 2014, a bullet hit a descending cargo plane but caused no injuries.

All international airlines cancelled their flights to Peshawar after the shootings but later resumed regular flights after security forces implemented various measures.

During Durrani's time as inspector general, KP Police registered all male residents of the villages near the airport. He raised a special police force of about 180 personnel to protect the areas surrounding the airport.

"The [airport] funnel zone is much more secure after recent measures were put in place by the government and other authorities," Israr Ahmad, a resident of Badhaber village, told Pakistan Forward.

"These watchtowers will increase a sense of security in villages around the airport, which are very peaceful compared to past years," he said.

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