Restore Pemra’s authority to discontinue live transmissions
ISLAMABAD: The inquiry commission formed to probe various aspects of the Jinnah Avenue standoff of August 15, 2013, has recommended that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman’s power to cut off live coverage in crisis situations be restored.
Previously, Mohammad Sikandar, the gunman responsible for the incident, had successfully reached the Red Zone of Islamabad while displaying firearms and resorting to aerial firing at Jinnah Avenue.
The event had been broadcasted live by private TV channels.
The three-member inquiry commission, headed by Justice (Retired) Shahid Saeed was then constituted to probe the matter.
It concluded in its report (available with Dawn) that the authority to sever live transmission was vested to the chairman under Pemra Ordinance 2002, but the provision was omitted in the Pemra Act of 2007.
“Pemra, being an autonomous authority, should be vested with powers to cut off live transmission in law and order and terrorism incidents,” the commission observed.
Improving police capacity
Similarly, the commission said the police force required professional training in crisis management and that postings in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) should be made conditional to acquiring such skills.
It recommended a fully-equipped Rapid Response Unit with the necessary training which would eventually become part of the rapid response force akin to the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) – a specialised unit in several countries trained to handle dangerous operations.
The commission also suggested a command and control unit in the office of the chief commissioner where representatives from agencies concerned were posted.
The control unit would be linked to National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the interior ministry which also required a serious overhaul to deal with crisis situations when required.
Furthermore, the commission said police pickets in and around the Red Zone needed to be redesigned to ensure that such intrusions were prevented in future.
However, it is not possible to check all passing vehicles due to shortage of police personnel.
“The solution is introduction of Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs) which are also used in the e-tag on motorway”, it observed.
These devices would help police ensure that all vehicles entering the zone were registered.
The commission also noted that security cameras with recording facility could help investigation and ensure timely response in such situations.
Negotiation skills have to be developed in the police and the administration by professional trainers to ensure that negotiations in such situations were handled properly, the commission said.
Usually, the most senior officer present on the site is involved in negotiations, which hamper other duties such as decision making, provision of logistics and coordination.
Concluding pending inquiries
The commission said the departmental inquiries being conducted against DSPs Arif Shah and Idrees Rathore and SHO Ghulam Qasim Khan Niazi should be concluded at the earliest.
The three police personnel are accused of illegally facilitating former Chairman Baitul-Mall Zamarud Khan breach the security cordon at Jinnah Avenue during the standoff in order to try and overpower the gunman.
The commission also pointed out that Zamarud Khan had not been called to join the investigations and stressed that he must do so.
The statements of the police and district management officials recorded by the commission show that Sikandar had finally agreed to the proposal of moving to a building in G-6 where all arrangements had been made to overpower him.
However, Zamarud Khan later breached the security cordon which led to firing. As a result, Sikandar and his wife were injured.
The commission also recommended investigation of the incident’s FIR registered with Kohsar police station through a panel of police officers. The panel would check proper showings and dig-up the motives of the accused.