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Commander who played with fire

Abdur Razzaq lost his life in an effort to defuse a bomb in Quetta. To prevent similar tragedies, the bomb disposal squads must be strengthened

Commander who played with fire
Abdur Razzaq.

Thirty-six years old Abdur Razzaq’s job was highly risky, he played with fire, yet he avoided wearing a bomb disposal suit. For his colleagues, he was a super cop — because during his nearly two-decade-long service, as a commander of Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS), he defused more than 600 explosive devices, including IEDs, high power explosives, time devices and rockets, till his “untimely” death last week.

Every day, Commander Abdur Razzaq put himself at risk to keep others safe in a province like Balochistan, where bomb blast and rocket firing incidents are a matter of routine. According to police record, over 2,949 incidents of bomb blasts, suicidal bombings and rocket firing incidents in Balochistan have claimed lives of 2,880 people since 2007.

On Monday last, he was called to check Saryab Road, where a suspicious bag was spotted near the bridge. Officials say Razzaq had jammed two options — timer and remote control — and while he worked on the third option of photocell switch, the device exploded. The blast was so powerful that Razzaq and his colleague police constable, Abdul Majeed, stood no chance of survival.

Abdur Razzaq had been giving militants a hard time. “This is a huge loss for the entire force. His gallant endeavours are not hidden from anyone,” says IG Police Balochistan Ahsan Mehboob.

Razzaq belonged to Quetta. He completed his early education from the Islamia School, and passed his matriculation in the 1990s. Later, he completed the patwari course and preferred to join the police department. Soon he was promoted as head constable for foiling terrorism attempts by defusing explosive devices in Balochistan.

He was honoured with Pakistan Police Medal and Quaid-e-Azam Police Medal.

Read also: It could’ve been me

As a super cop his life was not easy. He used to mentor his juniors in far-flung areas of Balochistan in dealing with precarious situations. He ran an elaborate team of BDS across Balochistan. His life was always in danger because he foiled nefarious designs of anti-state elements. He always had a strong belief in destiny, and used to say, “When I have to die, nothing will save me and when I have to live on no one can kill me.”

Given the risks involved in his career, Razzaq preferred to remain single, as he did not want to have a family without him being around.

Given the risks involved in his career, Razzaq preferred to remain single, as he did not want to have a family without him being around. He, however, has left behind an aged mother and eight siblings. “He never succumbed to threats. He never talked of backing out. He used to share his feelings with his siblings and colleagues. He would say, ‘I’m proud to serve the people and I will continue to serve them’,” says his younger brother Ghulam Mustafa. “He bravely continued the fight against terrorism”.

“Although police and other law enforcement personnel get a special risk allowance, officers of the bomb disposal squad barely receive what they deserve,” says Razzaq’s colleague in BDS Quetta.

Read also: Terror returns

The Balochistan government could not even release Rs1.3 million cash award that had been announced by Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri on Sep 6 for the BDS team. Of the amount, Rs500,000 was announced for Razzaq.

According to a BDS official, five officials of the squad have died in Balochistan since 2016. “It is our passion which keeps us going,” he adds, regretting that in the recent past, salaries of all policemen were increased, except for the BDS official.

In Balochistan, the BDS staffers are constantly at risk, facing threat of explosions. The BDS is acutely short of equipment and manpower. The records show 17 posts of BDS commanders and technicians are lying vacant in the provincial police department since long. The Quetta police’s bomb disposal squad unit is working without proper safety measures and equipment.

The situation can be assessed from the facts that there aren’t enough bomb suits to go around, and the BDS team of special branch has one BDs suit which the staff hardly uses because of its weight. So the main protection for the bomb technicians is no thicker than the clothes they are wearing, and their tools are just a set of screwdrivers, pliers, pincers and knives. Whereas, the civil defence has displayed one robot, one BDS suit and water cannon gun in their offices that had been donated by the UK.

Nevertheless, the resurgence of terror has added new security dimensions. First, because of the ongoing work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, connecting Gwadar to China’s Xinjiang province, Balochistan is the first in the line of militant attacks. Second, most of the groups and offshoots after operation Zarb-e-Azb took shelter across the border in Afghanistan from where they are reportedly operating against Pakistan.

The question arises, are we ready to counter terrorism in a province like Balochistan where work on the $46 billion CPEC is in progress while hostile countries are hatching conspiracies against the mega project?

Muhammad Ejaz Khan

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