Pak Army unwilling to act against militants, but ill-equipped police seem game

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Lahore, Mar.31 (ANI): Analysts in Pakistan and in other parts of the world are divided over how much enthusiasm the Pakistan Army has for tackling militant groups, and there is a consensus emerging that it is the police in the country that has proved to be the most aggressive of the security forces, and therefore needs the most Western backing.

"The police are the weakest link. They are both the most vulnerable and the most essential to the state if there is to be an effective crackdown" on jihadi groups, says Samina Ahmed, a Pakistan-based analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG).

She takes a dim view of the military's interest in pursuing these groups, adding that top American officials publicly expressed doubts about it as recently as last week.

Instead, civilian law enforcement is key to beating insurgents in Pakistan because the Army has done little, the Christian Science Monitor quotes Ahmed, as saying.

However, she adds that while the police are game about tackling the menace head on, they have neither the means nor the independence to do so.

Police have told the ICG that since 9/11, the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency has been given most of the power to deal with counter-terrorism.

Even before Monday's attacks, the police had paid a price for its role in the investigation of the Mumbai attacks. Last week a suicide bomber targeted an Islamabad police station at the center of the investigation. One policeman who thwarted the bomber from entering the building died in the blast.

The two Lahore attacks suggest the police are outgunned and outwitted by an increasingly sophisticated breed of militants. Monday's attack suggests careful planning, down to the blue uniforms and timing during a parade of unarmed trainees.

The cricket attacks caught police flatfooted, despite official promises there would be top-notch security for the game. Instead, nearby police failed to respond in time to prevent the gunmen from casually getting away, though police on the scene did manage to protect the cricketers.

"It's a new generation of terrorists - better equipped with better planning and better coordination," says Pakistani security expert Ayesha Siddiqa. The attack "makes a case for better equipping the police and training them." (ANI)

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