ALP personnel blasted for torturing Jalrez residents
MAIDAN SHAHR (Pajhwok): Tribal elders have accused the Afghan Local Police (ALP) personnel deployed to the Jalrez district of central Maidan Wardak province of harassing and torturingcivilians. However, the ALP commander rejects the charge as groundless.
On July 3,at least 30 militants and 28 ALP members were killed in clashes on the Kabul-Bamyan highway clashes in Jalrez. The gun-battles erupted after hundreds of militants stormed ALP posts in Ismailkhel and Zewlat areas. A dozen checkpoints fell to the militants as a result of the coordinated assault.
Authorities say reinforcements from the provincial capital could not reach the site in time due to Taliban ambushes and roadside bombs planted by the fighters. The fatalities included a policeman from Bamyan province, who had been posted in violation of ALP rules to Ismailkhel to patrol the highway.
Under the ALP recruitment policy, each member should belong to the district where he is posted. The ALP official from Bamyan was assigned to guard the highway, along which 12 posts are located.
Complaints from elders:
At a meeting, dozens of elders from Zewlat and Ismailkhel areas alleged that nearly 100 ALP personnel from Bamyan province had forcibly occupied 12 civilian houses bang in the middle of the two villages on the plea to secure the highway three years back. They would often harass the locals, the elders claimed.
Hailing from Zewlat, Ghulam Siddique said after the deployment of the ALP men, who belonged to another province, many schools in the areas had been closed. He blasted the policemen for firing at schoolchildren and thereby depriving them of education.
Another tribal chieftain from the same village, Khuda-i-Noor, complained they had been intimidated to the extent that they could not expose the ALP heavy-handed tactics. “The government doesn’t listen to us; you (journalists) convey our voice to the authorities concerned,” he said.
Area resident Sahar Gul said the villagers had lodged complaints against the ALP posts with different provincial departments several times, but no one bothered taking corrective action. As a result, the security personnel continued to ride roughshod over the poor inhabitants.
Haji Momin Mullahkhel, a dweller of Sher Khan area, remarked the ALP officials had inflicted more sufferings on them than the Israelis had on Palestinians. He charged the so-called ALP men were loyalists of a certain group and were superimposed upon Jalrez residents in the garb of security officials.
He spurned assertions by some circles that the locals had assaulted the police posts, asking those who branded Jalrez residents as terrorists after the incident to apologise for the slur. “We voted for President Ashraf Ghani in the hope he will address our problems, not to allow our torture and killing at the hands of gunmen from another province…”
He added the locals were threatened and tortured by the ALP personnel who had been sent to the area illegally. The people were happy with the security officials who had come to Jalrez in line with relevant rules, the elder explained, seeking stringent action against the individuals involved in torturing the masses.
Pajhwok Afghan News interviewed some of the people who were tortured on different pretexts at the hands of the ALP staff manning the 12 posts. Habibullah, 37, said: “An ALP member named Karim ordered me down my bike in Khwaja Sahib village. He scorched several parts of my body with a heated skewer.”
Gulzar, a resident of Ismailkhel, also accused the ALP personnel of attacking him. “They struck me with a grenade, whose shrapnel is still inside my body. I cannot be treated here and need to go to Pakistan. However, I can’t afford to pay expenses of travel to the neighbouring country.”
A shopkeeper in the Jalrez bazaar, Qudratullah, has also a woeful tale to tell. “In broad daylight, some members of the force looted my shop. To lodge my complaint, I went to a post led by ALP Commander Hussain Ali. He hanged me upside down. I was beaten so much so that I fell unconscious …”
Zakirullah, Qudratullah and several other people have approached tribal elders, provincial council and civil society representatives with grievances against the ALP. Pajhwok has also obtained documents linking the personnel of the 12 checkpoints to 24 cases of murder, injuries to 44 and losses to 40 others.
On the other hand, ALP Commander Raza scorned the allegations from Jalrez residents as baseless. Instead he said the complainants had connections with the Taliban. The commander claimed having evidence against some of the people who had accused the force of involvement in abuses.
He did acknowledge the killing of a mentally sick woman, who was shot dead by ALP men after she refused to stop. The security personnel mistook her for an enemy. Her mental problem was confirmed by relatives as well. The case went to judicial organs, but the ALP staffers were acquitted, Raza said.
About the man who had been burnt with a skewer, the commander said he had evidence of the man aiding the insurgents. Raza vehemently denied ALP involvement in torturing the people. If the allegations had been true, other government institutions would have taken action against them, he argued.
Provincial Council Chairman Haji Ahmad Jafari also tended to reject the accusations. He said if the people should share with the council before the Jalrez incident whatever proofs they had against the security personnel. He saw a pattern in levelling such allegations against the ALP after the attacks.
Deployment against rules:
Almost all senior provincial officials admit that those manning the 12 ALP posts were not Maidan Wardak residents and that they were posted to Jalrez in violation of the ALP rules. Not only they failed to improve security, they also created problems, the provincial authorities acknowledge.
Governor Hayatullah Hayat told Pajhwok the Jalrez assault occurred a week after his assumption of office. He also verified the illegal deployment of the ALP personnel to the restive district. Hayat also lashed out at the force for misbehaving with residents.
An official, requesting anonymity, revealed the 12 ALP post commanders did not obey gubernatorial orders. Instead, they allegedly received instructions from elsewhere. Even on the eve of the attack, the source disclosed, they had established contact with higher-ups in Kabul and requested help.
Brig. Gen. Mohammad Khalil Andarabi, the provincial police chief, said the unlawfully deployed ALP personnel had registered with the police headquarters. They were regularly drawing their monthly salaries, he said, adding he had twice visited ALP checkpoints in the district.
He confirmed receiving informal complaints from Ismailkhel and Zewlat residents, but the objections needed to be formalised before being referred to prosecutors. The formality was yet to be met, the police chief maintained.
Jalrez district administrative chief Naqibullah Haideri also verified the ALP deployment illegality, saying the policemen would occasionally attend meetings with him. He added only some of the complaints were valid but the scale of abuse was not as high as the people claimed.
With regard to the woman’s shooting, he said two ALP officials were currently being held in Pul-i-Charkhi prison in Kabul in connection with her murder. A third has been disarmed. Yet another official who tortured a civilian had fled, he added. Efforts are ongoing to bring him to justice.
Sharifullah Hotak, a provincial council member from Zewlat, charged the ALP personnel had been sent to Jalrez unlawfully by certain circles. He said a large number of force members from Maidan Wardak were maintaining security in different districts and behaving well with the people.
He went on to take issue with supporters of the ALP men, who called Jalrez residents terrorists during discussions with journalists and meetings in Kabul. He asked them to apologise to Jalrez dwellers. Hotak said there was hardly any family in the two villages that had not been tortured by the ALP staffers.
The public representative said they had shared the public complaints with some parliamentarians, influential figures in Kabul and even with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. But there has been no remedial action so far.
Civil society activists Najibullah Fikarman and Zalmai Wahid also cited instances of torture by the ALP servicemen. They called for effective measures to hold the force accountable for its illegal acts.
Need for ALP:
Police chief Gen. Andarabi says the Taliban disembarked people from vehicles in the two villages on the Kabul-Bamyan highway some three years back, when residents were asked to offer recruits for ALP to bring security to the area. Since the call went unheeded, ALP members were brought to Jalrez from another province, he recalled.
But provincial council member Hotak retorted innocent residents should not suffer for what the Taliban had done years ago in the area. He said hundreds of Bamyan-bound vehicles passed through the two villages on a daily basis but none of them was ever intercepted. His view was endorsed by tribal elders, who said the Taliban targeted only those who were important to them.
For his part, Raza says the Jalrez people had failed to meet the government’s demand for ALP recruits to secure the area. As result, he maintained, ALP personnel had to be recruited from Bamyan. Some suspects coming from Punjab were fuelling insecurity in Wardak, he continued.
Speaking to Pajhwok, elders from different tribes and communities insisted the people of Wardak lived in complete harmony and peaceful coexistence, like members of one family. They blasted some Kabul-based media outlets and other powerful circles of fomenting trouble in Maidan Wardak.
Similarly, provincial officials unanimously blamed the Taliban for the Jalrez attack. But the militants failed to overrun the district.
Area elders and social activists urged the government not to let anyone give a political, communal or commercial twist to the attack. Residents called for President Ghani to visit Jalrez to ascertain the facts and invite their representatives to Kabul.
Senior provincial officials, including the governor and police chief, promised they would not send ALP personnel from other provinces to any district of Maidan Wardak. They also vowed to keep a watch on security forces and work for strengthening coordination between the people and law-enforcement agents.
Current situation in Jalrez:
Officials say the security forces had wrested back control of the 12 checkpoints that had been captured by the Taliban. Public Order Police are currently manning the posts and will remain there until area people are recruited into ALP. They add the Kabul-Bamyan highway remains open, with normal traffic continuing smoothly.
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