Why Pakistan's slain 'super cop' is a tough act to follow

One of Pakistan's most famous police chiefs was killed Thursday by the Pakistan Taliban. A new report says terror casualties were up 19 percent in 2013.

Akhtar Soomro/Reuters/File
Pakistan's Crime Investigation Department (CID) Chief Chaudhry Aslam gestures during an interview with Reuters at his office in Karachi in this October 3, 2012 file photo. Aslam, known for arresting and killing several Taliban militants in the southern port city of Karachi, was killed along with three associates in the huge bomb blast on Jan. 9, 2014.

Chaudhry Aslam, often dubbed the "super cop" of Karachi for his aggressive prosecution of Taliban fighters, was killed in a suicide attack Thursday that dealt a new blow to Pakistan's attempt to curb rising violence.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was to avenge the killing of more than 50 Taliban fighters during police operations run by Mr. Aslam.

Karachi has seen a rise in terrorist activities since 2009, with the Taliban increasing its presence in this port city of 20 million inhabitants. According to official statistics, 138 policemen were killed in the line of duty in Karachi in 2013. A report released this week by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) found that the the number of terror casualties in the country overall were up by 19 percent last year, with nearly 2,500 people killed in militant attacks.

The report says that since 2010, fatalities were falling but the last year saw a reversal mainly due to the "government’s appeasement approach which had let the Taliban make a comeback." 

PIPS director Amir Rana says there is a growing divide between lawmakers and law enforcers on how to approach the Taliban, with enforcement agencies wanting action and the government "maintaining a ‘wait-and-see-policy’ and that is causing a huge disconnect" between the two.

“The government has been emphasizing peace talks which now seems more of an appeasement strategy – it seems it wants to keep the Taliban happy, while the morale of the security forces especially the police keeps falling,” Mr. Rana says.

The current Pakistani government that came into power last year after the general elections in May initiated an all parties conference after assuming office. At the September meeting, the major political leaders tasked the government with initiating a peace dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban who are headquartered in North Waziristan, a lawless tribal area close to the Afghanistan border.

Despite peace talks overtures by the government, the Taliban continues to target security forces, government officials, and innocent civilians, which Rana blames in part on policies that are ambiguous to the law enforcers. 

Officials close to Aslam paint him as a hero who bravely fought the Taliban until his last breath. “He was cracking down against the Taliban in Karachi, and like all of us daily, was fighting the war in the streets,” says Raja Umar Khattab, a senior police officer who attended Aslam’s funeral held today in the city.

“We need to go after them, and the nation needs to unite behind this,” Mr. Khattab says.

Security experts warn that it will not be an easy task to go after the terrorists.

“The Taliban are not just in the North-West next to the Afghan border now. Because of the unwillingness of the state to act against them, they are now everywhere in the country especially in [places] like Karachi and Punjab,” says Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani political scientist and author of Military Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy.

According to Ms. Siddiqa, the Pakistani state needs to stop its tacit support of specific militant groups for its own strategic reasons that it thinks will be served this year as NATO forces pull out of Afghanistan. “We need to clean our own mess. We need an integrated intelligence operation in the main cities of the country and uniformly take action against anyone including right-wing political parties which also provide support to such militants in Pakistan.” 

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