Bannu prison break remains unexamined by Pakistani and international media

Source: WSF

“Intelligence failure” is the most easily available excuse for the government in Pakistan following the daring Taliban and Sipah-e-Sahaba jailbreak in the northern city of Bannu early on April 15. However, more than intelligence failure, the jailbreak appears to be an outcome of a well-planned drama by certain pro-Taliban elements in Pakistani security agencies, which wanted to reinforce the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and their affiliates (Jihadi-sectarian groups eg, ASWJ aka SSP) operating in Pakistan.

According to Akbar Hoti, the police chief of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, where the jailbreak was carried out, between 150 and 200 attackers fired rockets on the main gate of the jail and released around 384 dangerous prisoners, 20 of whom are described as “very dangerous,” including Adnan Rashid, who was convicted of participating in an attack on former President Pervez Musharraf. A large number of the escaped prisoners belonged to the Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (operating as ASWJ and LeJ) and other Jihadi-Salafi and Jihadi-Deobandi militants.

Bannu borders the restive North Waziristan tribal agency where Pakistan army is currently busy in playing hide and seek with the Taliban (also known as Good Taliban Bad Taliban game). However, the April 15 jailbreak was particularly shocking and raises many questions about the collusion between Pakistan army and Taliban/ASWJ.

How did hundreds of Taliban militants manage to cross scores of police and army checkpoints inside the city, as well as entry and exit points to and from adjacent tribal areas?

Why did no police or army reinforcements reach the site, even though the attack continued for more than two hours?

And if an “intelligence failure” is really to be blamed, how can the security of other cities — like Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, and Peshawar, which are located on the periphery of the tribal districts — be guaranteed in the days ahead?

Does the little or no resistance shown by prison guards point to the demoralization of the security force, making them sitting ducks for the Taliban and its supporters all over the country, or does that indicate the fact that the mother of all agencies had advised the police to step aside and let the Good Taliban do their urgent work?

Many security experts and top officials in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government believe that the involvement of senior officials in intelligence agencies cannot be ruled out.

Malak Naveed Khan, former chief of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police, says it is unbelievable to think that 150 to 200 heavily armed men could have entered the city, broken into the prison, and taken away nearly 400 prisoners without anyone moving to intercept them at any one of numerous checkpoints.

Equally important are the statements of the prison’s telephone operator, Shahab Khan, and Rahmatullah, one of the escaped prisoners who, with others, returned to the jail the next morning to surrender.

Shahab Khan said he was sending requests for reinforcements for more than two hours and that each time he was assured that help was on the way.

Rahmatullah said he saw 50 to 60 pickup trucks parked around the jail on the main highway, ostensibly used to transport the attackers, and heard the attackers shouting at the prisoners in Urdu to leave the vicinity.

So what really happened?

We’ll have to wait at least 15 days for the conclusions of an inquiry report into the attack by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government. That may provide some answers. But of course the world is still waiting for the results of an official inquiry into the events of May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, when Osama bin Laden was killed.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Source: Daud Khattak, RFERL

Despite the duration of the attack, the prison guards apparently received no back-up from the military.

“We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way,” a Taliban spokesman told Reuters.

Reports said that anywhere up to 100 fighters were involved in the attack that began sometime before dawn, and were equipped with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

Having breached the walls of the jail, the militants apparently made their way to the section where prisoners who are on death row were held.

Their priority appears to have been securing the release of Adnan Rashid, who was in jail for his role in a failed assassination against former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

For up to two hours the militants fought with the jail’s guards before setting part of the jail on fire and releasing the inmates. Officials said 20 of those who escaped were considered particularly dangerous.

The incident is a reminder that the Pakistani military has little appetite to confront militants who are not a threat to the state.

Imtiaz Gul, an author and head of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, an Islamabad-based think-tank, said the incident was a huge embarrassment that demanded a full investigation. He said it appeared that the militants had received inside information about the location of their jailed colleagues.

“This is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan. It’s a huge embarrassment for the entire security apparatus,” he said. “This went on for two hours and the army or paramilitaries should have had time to get there.” (Source)

Who is Adnan Rashid and why did he enjoy special facilities in prison?

Adnan Rashid, a high profile prisoner who escaped from Bannu Central Prison on Sunday morning, was enjoying the facility of cellular phone inside the death cells of different jails where he was lodged after being sentenced to death by a field general court martial for his alleged attempt on the life of Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf.

A former junior technician of Pakistan Air Force, Adnan Rashid is a resident of Chota Lahor area of Swabi district. He is fluent in English, Pashto and Urdu. He used to contribute to several social networking sites including Blogs and Facebook from the prison. He had joined PAF in 1997. He was around 24 when he was arrested in early 2004.

The escaped prisoner was in contact with the world outside the prison through his cellular phone, according to sources. He was also in touch with several journalists and used to send them messages through short message service (SMS).

Prior to his escape, Adnan continued to plead his innocence and claimed that his only crime was that he had voted “No” in the referendum held by the then military president Gen Musharraf.

He had pinned high hopes on the judiciary led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry when his review petition along with that of several other convicts against their conviction was pending but after dismissal of his petition in March 2011 he started questioning the independence of judiciary.

Recently, he sent a sarcastic SMS to different persons which states: “There are millions of cases pending before high courts and Supreme Court, 99.9 per cent of these are actually appeals against verdicts of lower courts. Billions of rupees are being spent on higher civil courts so why not this judicial system is replaced by military courts; these are swift, require no judge, no special courtrooms or bars, and most interesting court martial are unchallengeable so no more need of high and supreme courts. It saves time and money of nation. What do you think? From a court martial convict.”

In the first life attempt on Gen Musharraf that took place near Jhanda Chichi Bridge at Rawalpindi on Dec 14, 2003, six personnel of PAF including Adnan Rashid were convicted by a field general court martial on Oct 3, 2005, at PAF Base Chaklala.

Besides Adnan, four others — ex-chief technician Khalid Mehmood, ex-senior technician, Karam Din, ex-corporal Nawazish and ex-junior technician Niaz Mohammad — were sentenced to death whereas another junior technician, Nasrullah, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Their appeal was dismissed by a PAF appellate court in Feb 2006. Later on, their petitions were dismissed by Lahore High Court on March 28, 2006. Against that judgment they filed appeals before the Supreme Court and a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry rejected the same on Sept 25, 2006.

The bench held that under Article 199 of the Constitution, civil courts had no jurisdiction to issue writ against orders passed by military courts. Their review petitions were also dismissed on March 31, 2011 by the apex court.

A soldier of Pakistan Army, Abdul Islam Siddiqui, who was separately tried in the same case by a court martial, had already been hanged on Aug 20, 2005.

The interviews of Adnan Rashid, when he was in prison, were also uploaded on Facebook, wherein he argued against flaws in Army Act, Pakistan Air Force Act and Navy Act and urged the Supreme Court to intervene in these cases. He had also sent several letters to Chief Justice of Pakistan requesting him to look into the flaws in their cases.

In one of his letters to the chief justice, he claimed that at the time of the said occurrence he was on duty in Quetta and was picked up by personnel of an intelligence agency on Jan 9, 2004.

When he was transferred to civil detention facility, he was initially lodged in a death cell at Haripur prison from where he was shifted to Peshawar jail. In Sept last he was shifted to Bannu prison.One of the reporters receiving regular messages from him said that in almost all the prisons he was having cellular phones. He had to change his number several times as during search operations in the prisons on several occasions he was deprived of his phone. However, after few days he was again enjoying the said facility. (Source)

Intelligence Debacle or a ISI-Taliban-ASWJ Collusion?

Somewhere between 100 and 150 militants launched an assault on Bannu Central Prison soon after midnight on Saturday. Blowing the main gates apart with rocket-propelled grenades, they caused 384 of over 900 inmates in the facility to escape in what is being described as the country’s biggest jailbreak. It is disturbing to know that the most high-profile of the escaped prisoners was Adnan Rashid, sentenced to death for an attempt on the life of Pervez Musharraf and whose release was the apparent objective of the assault. Equally alarming is the escape of some other hardened criminals on death row including known militants. The raid, responsibility for which has been claimed by the TTP, was obviously well planned; while some men were inside the jail, others erected barricades at all the access roads. As it turned out, though, the militants met with virtually no resistance.

Such a lapse (if it is an unintentional lapse at all) of intelligence, after a series of security breaches including the GHQ attack and later the undetected presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the assault on PNS Mehran, casts serious doubts over the abilities as well as intention of the security and law-enforcement establishments. The area from Bannu to Miramshah has long been considered militant-infested and the Pakistan Army maintains a significant presence there. Unlike the tribal areas, the law-enforcement apparatus is extant; Pakistan army has numerous check-posts on roads leading to FATA and across the border. The fact that dozens of Taliban-ASWJ vehicles attacked a prison, spent good four or five hours in the prison, celebrated their victory, then travelled back safe and secure to Waziristan shows there is much more than what meets eyes. Such a strike, which must have taken months of planning, cannot be conducted without the knowledge of the intelligence network. Why should Pakistanis, or indeed the world, trust the ISI and Pakistan army when they say they have the security situation under control? Not only did a convoy of vehicles reach the jail without difficulty, the absence of a rapid response betrayed the security apparatus’s total lack of preparedness, to say the least. And this despite more than a decade of resisting militant groups that appear to be far more organised.

As a result of this debacle, the militants’ ranks are sure to be swelled by a large number of new recruits, with the Pakistani Taliban and their sectarian affiliates (Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) being even further emboldened. This incident should make clear to those who give excuses and justifications for the militants’ excesses what the intentions of such elements towards the Pakistani state are: they have not simply declared a war on drone strikes or the American presence in Afghanistan. As for the security establishment, so often in the news for sordid tales such as ‘Mehrangate’, the incident should serve as a reminder of what its priorities should be. (Source)

Taliban’s statement

A Taliban commander who helped plan an assault on a Pakistani jail on Sunday which freed nearly 400 prisoners said his group had inside information.Pakistan’s Taleban movement, which is close to al-Qaeda and Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ), said it was behind the brazen assault by militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.

“We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” the commander, a senior member of the Taleban, said by phone. “All I have to say is we have people who support us in Bannu. It was with their support that this operation was successful.”

The Bannu attackers arrived in a convoy of vehicles, blocking off all access points to the jail before firing rocket-propelled grenades at the black, metal gates of the prison and forcing their way in.

They moved through the prison quickly, facing little resistance, until they found Adnan Rasheed, who took part in one of the attempts to kill Gen Musharraf, and then freed him and 383 others.

Citing preliminary investigations, Mr Majeed said 150 guards were supposed to be on duty when the militants struck, but only 36 were.

The Taleban commander, based in North Waziristan, said 150 fighters, including foreigners, launched the prison assault after months of training.

Police officials said 76 escapees were now back in custody.

One, Zahir Shah, 29, said: “They took us with them to the main gate. Outside there were many cars. I think 20 cars in all. They shoved me into one of the vehicles and drove off really fast.” However, he turned himself in, saying: “I could be out in a few years for good behaviour. I don’t want to ruin my chances.” (Source)

ISI’s officials claim no intelligence failure in Bannu jailbreak

Reported by Waqar Ahmed, The News, April 17, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Concerned officials have strongly denied that the Bannu jailbreak incident was the result of intelligence failure. They added that the militants had only taken away one hardcore terrorist.

Speaking here on Monday morning, concerned officials said that on January 5, 2012 a letter was sent to all concerned warning of terrorist attacks. The letter stated: “Reportedly terrorist commander Askari, ex Tariq Jeedar group, is planning to carry out massive terrorist activity in KP and Kohat area.” The letter identified possible targets as the Lachi Police Station, PAF Base Kohat, Kohat Cantt and Bannu Jail to free terrorists.

The letter added: “This merits extreme vigilance and heightened security measures at all levels.” Unfortunately, the Bannu jail authorities ignored the warning.Sources well versed with the development said that 341 prisoners had escaped. This included 145 who were in judicial custody, 95 who were under 302 PPC, 30 were serving sentences for narcotics offences, 21 were serving life imprisonment, 21 were on death row, 24 held under the Frontier Crimes Regulation and five were female prisoners. They said the only important prisoner who was taken away by the militants was Adnan Rasheed, involved in an attack on General Pervez Musharraf. “Therefore, reports about large-scale breakout of the Taliban from the jail and intelligence failure are totally false,” they added. (Source)

Nazir Naji writes:

پاکستان میں دہشت گردوں نے ایک بڑی کارروائی کی۔ شاید پاکستان کی تاریخ میں یہ چھاپہ ماروں کی سب سے بڑی کارروائی تھی۔ ساٹھ ستر گاڑیوں پر دہشت گردوں کا ایک قافلہ بھاری اور جدید اسلحہ سے لیس ‘ کسی نوٹس میں آئے بغیر بنوں کی جیل تک پہنچا۔ بنوں کی یہ جیل جدید انتظامات کے ساتھ تعمیر کی گئی تھی اور اس میں خطرناک قیدیوں کو رکھا گیا تھا۔ 20 کے قریب قیدی ایسے تھے‘ جنہیں انتہائی خطرناک قرار دے کر پھانسی کی سزائیں دی جا چکی تھیں اور وہ خصوصی حفاظتی انتظامات کے تحت موت کی کوٹھڑیوں میں رکھے گئے تھے۔ ظاہر ہے ایک نئی اور محفوظ جیل کی نگرانی کے لئے جو انتظامات ممکن تھے‘ وہ کئے گئے ہوں گے اور بنوں جو کہ شمالی وزیرستان سے زیادہ فاصلے پر نہیں‘ وہاں دہشت گردی کی جنگ بھی جاری ہے اور پاک فوج کی تادیبی کارروائیوں کی مہمات بھی چلائی جا رہی ہیں۔ بنوں جیل پر حملہ آور ہونے والے دہشت گردوں کی تعداد چار اور پانچ سو کے درمیان بتائی جا رہی ہے۔ یہ سارا ہجوم ہماری سکیورٹی کے تمام انتظامات کو درہم برہم کرتا ہو بنوں جیل تک کیسے پہنچ گیا؟ انہوں نے جیل کے دو بھاری آہنی دروازوں کو توڑ پھینکنے میں کیسے کامیابی حاصل کی؟ اور پھر علیحدہ علیحدہ بیرکوں اور کوٹھڑیوں میں بند قیدیوں تک کیسے پہنچے؟ خبریں یہ ہیں کہ وہ جیل کے اندر چار پانچ گھنٹے تک اپنے ساتھیوں سے ملتے‘ خوشی کے نعرے لگاتے اور اپنی کامیابی کا جشن مناتے رہے۔ ایک اطلاع تو یہ ہے کہ پرویزمشرف پر قاتلانہ حملہ کرنے کے ملزم کو سہرا پہنا کر دلہا بھی بنایا گیا اور اس کے بعد یہ پورا جلوس قریباً 400 قیدیوں کو ساتھ لے کر پاکستانی سرحد عبور کرنے میں کامیاب ہو گیا۔ خبروں میں کہیں یہ نہیں بتایا گیا کہ جیل کے حفاظتی عملے کی طرف سے کیا مزاحمت ہوئی؟ کتنے محافظ ہلاک ہوئے؟ کتنے زخمی ہوئے؟ کتنے دہشت گرد زخمی یا مار گرائے گئے؟ یہ جیل خانہ تھا یا کوئی مہمان خانہ؟ جہاں حملہ آوروں نے اتنی آسانی سے سینکڑوں قیدوں کو چھڑایا اور انہیں ساتھ لے کر کوئی نقصان اٹھائے بغیر نکل گئے۔ آج کے دور میں یہ ناقابل فہم بات ہے۔ قابل فہم تو اس سے پہلے والے کچھ واقعات بھی نہیں۔ جیسے جی ایچ کیو پر دہشت گردوں کی کارروائی اور کئی گھنٹے تک فوج کے اعلیٰ افسروں کو ان کے اپنے ہیڈکوارٹر کے اندر یرغمالی بنا کر رکھنا۔ مہران نیول بیس پر دہشت گردوں کے آزادانہ حملے اور پھر ایبٹ آباد کا واقعہ۔

Jang’s editorial:

توار کی رات بنوں سنٹرل جیل پر عسکریت پسندوں کے لشکر کا حملہ دہشت گردی کا بہت بڑا واقعہ ہے جو اپنی سنگینی کے اعتبار سے مہران بیس اور جی ایچ کیو پر ہونے والے حملوں اور پھر ایبٹ آباد میں امریکی جنگی ہیلی کاپٹروں کی جارحانہ کارروائی سے کسی طور کم اہمیت کا حامل نہیں۔ راکٹ لانچروں، مارٹر گولوں، دستی بموں اور دوسرے جدید ہتھیاروں سے لیس 500سے زائد شدت پسندوں نے بنوں سنٹرل جیل پر حملہ کرکے اہم طالبان کمانڈروں سمیت 386قیدیوں کو چھڑا لیا۔ حیرت کی بات یہ ہے کہ تقریباً 60تیزرفتار گاڑیوں پر سوار حملہ آور رات ڈیڑھ بجے جنگی کانوائے کی صورت میں جیل پہنچے لیکن نہ تو راستے میں انہیں روکنے والا کوئی تھا، نہ فورسز کو خبر ہوئی۔ حملہ آوروں نے پہلے مین گیٹ پھر دوسرے بڑے دروازوں کو راکٹوں سے اڑایا، جیل کے عملے کو یرغمال بنا کر نہایت دیدہ دلیری سے قیدیوں کے پھانسی گھاٹ اور بیرکوں میں داخل ہوئے اور تقریباً ڈیڑھ گھنٹہ تک فائرنگ کرتے اور قیدیوں کو چھڑاتے رہے۔ اس موقع پر جیل کی حفاظت پر مامور 104پولیس اہلکاروں میں سے صرف 35ڈیوٹی پر موجود تھے۔ ان میں سے کئی فائرنگ سے زخمی ہوگئے۔ عینی شاہدین کا کہنا ہے کہ انتظامیہ کو بروقت اطلاع دی گئی اس کے باوجود پولیس یا کسی دوسری سکیورٹی فورس کی اضافی نفری مدد کیلئے نہیں بلائی گئی۔ حملہ آوروں نے پرویز مشرف حملہ کیس کے ملزم کو چھڑانے کے بعد اطمینان سے اس کی دستاربندی کی اور جلوس کی شکل میں اسے اپنے ساتھ لے کر شمالی وزیرستان چلے گئے۔ مذکورہ واقعہ سے حکومتی عملداری کے موثر ہونے اور سکیورٹی ایجنسیوں کی فعالیت کے حوالے سے بعض سنگین سوالات جنم لے رہے ہیں۔ جبکہ دوسری جانب ایسا محسوس ہوتا ہے کہ ملک اور اس کے عوام کو قانون شکنوں اورجرائم پیشہ عناصر کے رحم و کرم پر چھوڑ دیا گیاہے۔بلوچستان اور گلگت بلتستان میں جوکچھ ہورہا ہے اورکراچی میں بے گناہ لوگوں کا جو خون بہہ رہاہے اس سے قانون نافذ کرنے والے اداروں کی عوام کی جان و مال کے تحفظ میں ناکامی کا اظہار ہوتا ہے۔

Hamid Mir writes:

کیا یہ محض ایک اتفاق ہے؟ گزشتہ سال اپریل میں افغان طالبان نے قندھار کی ایک بڑی جیل پر حملہ کیا جس میں پانچ سو سے زیادہ قیدی فرار ہوگئے۔ فرار ہونے والوں میں اکثریت طالبان کی تھی۔ اس سال اپریل میں شمالی وزیرستان سے چند کلو میٹر کے فاصلے پر واقع بنوں کی ایک جیل پر حملہ کیا گیا اور ساڑھے چار سو سے زیادہ قیدیوں کو بھگا دیا گیا۔ بھاگنے والوں میں بڑی تعداد ایسے قیدیوں کی ہے جن پر طالبان اور کچھ کالعدم تنظیموں کے ساتھ تعلق کا الزام ہے۔ بنوں جیل کی انتظامیہ نے دعویٰ کیا ہے کہ حملہ آوروں کی تعداد تین سو سے زیادہ تھی۔ سوال یہ ہے کہ تین سو حملہ آور بھاری اسلحہ کے ساتھ پیدل آئے تھے یا گاڑیوں پر بیٹھ کر آئے تھے؟ تین سو حملہ آوروں نے ساڑھے تین سو قیدیوں کو آزاد کرایا اور پھر یہ ساڑھے چھ سو لوگ رات کی تاریکی میں کدھر غائب ہوگئے؟ سب جانتے ہیں کہ کوہاٹ سے بنوں یا ڈیرہ اسماعیل خان سے بنوں کی طرف آنے جانے والے راستوں پر جگہ جگہ ناکے موجود ہیں۔ شمالی وزیرستان اور بنوں کے درمیان سرحد پر سیکورٹی فورسز کا سخت پہرہ ہوتا ہے۔ بنوں جیل سے سینکڑوں قیدیوں کے فرار کو اگر ہم ایک بہت بڑی ملی بھگت نہ بھی کہیں تو یہ ایک ناقابل فراموش نااہلی ہے۔

Video reports:

Express Tribune’s video

Taliban’s video



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