Frontier Constabulary jawans: Dying comes easy to them, it’s living they can’t afford

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  1. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    Frontier Constabulary jawans: Dying comes easy to them, it’s living they can’t afford!

    Friday, May 08, 2009
    by Mariana Baabar

    Islamabad


    We want these faceless men of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) to die defending our vaunted foreign diplomats and our homegrown VVIPs. We even observe long silences of mourning and light memorial candles when they do die, but how many of these very VVIPs and important foreign dignitaries have ever spared a few minutes to think about how these men actually live, for everyone forgets them the moment they are waved through one of the many check-posts being manned by these foot soldiers.


    But one tiny look into the lives, and the ‘living’ conditions of these troops sends a shiver of guilt, a guilt for having it all so good. It is difficult to believe that this is not a makeshift camp in an area where the Frontier Constabulary (FC) is on exercise in the middle of no-where. In this high-risk zone, just opposite the heavily barricaded Marriott Hotel, the frail wire fencing around the so-called FC Headquarters could at best serve as a mosquito net. There is no wall, not even a mud wall for that matter at the perimeter of the mighty sounding headquarters. There are no searchlights, and late at night the area is consumed by pitch darkness, transforming the greenbelt into a deadly killing field for any adventurous militant.


    There are two tiny igloo like brick structures (left over from the earthquake and built by an NGO) while the rest of the dozen or so tents put to shame even the tents of the Afghan refugees. One I swear has been hastily mended with an old piece of cloth. There is one ‘pucca’ room though which is the office of SP Jan Mohammad, but its fragility can be gauged by the fact that, “After the Marriott blast, when I walked up to my office, the door had landed on my desk”, he tells ‘The News’.


    Welcome to the lives and styles of the 1,700 strong FC force in the capital who have been here since 1988 when the headquarters was in Gadoon, and only lately shifted to Islamabad a year ago and now declared an FC area. The FC is here to protect diplomatic missions, important buildings and of course the VVIPs.


    Sher Afzal is a young soldier who joined the FC seven years ago and belongs to Tank in Pakhtoonkhwa province. He leaves for duty in the morning after having only one cup of tea and nothing else. No, it’s not about any freaky dietary habit but a compulsion of poverty.


    “What else do you expect me to eat on my salary? It costs me Rs12 just to go to Aabpara and I have to maintain my family back home. It has been one year since I received my ISD (special allowance to serve in non FC area), and now from this summer this special allowance will also be stopped as Islamabad is now an FC area. At times I wonder what I am doing here. Some of my colleagues here have not received ISD for the past four years”, laments an otherwise proud looking Afzal.



    Others want to know that while the cost of living in Islamabad is same for them and for their colleagues in the Islamabad Police then how come the ‘style’ of their colleagues is so different and wonder if they are children of a lesser god.


    “So why are we paid less?” he asks, and I don’t have the heart to tell him that he belongs to an area that is probably off the priority radar of the Ministry of Interior.


    I have already had a chat with the SP and he has been kind enough to grant permission to ‘The News’ team to walk around and talk unchaperoned to the soldier, but not without a warning. “They are very frank and you will be surprised. Remember this is the FC culture and not the police. They will not even hesitate to point out the wrongdoing of a senior officer”, says Jan Mohammad. And he should know because the FC has had a rather quirky history as well.


    The FC unlike the impression in the capital, cannot do crowd control like the police. All they are trained in is to protect and to shoot if threatened. I remembered that even during Benazir Bhutto’s Long March, FC soldiers had orders to fire if attacked by the agitating mob. Once in Bara, the junior FC soldiers exhausted by long spells of duties and unbearable heat, and made berserk by no electricity for days, had taken a Wapda employee and tied him to a tree for a few hours.


    So how come, they have since ‘behaved’ for two decades and one has not heard them complain? In a sharp contrast remember the incident when the Punjab Constabulary mutinied and had public fights with the Islamabad Police at Aabpara because they felt that they were not being treated at par? After all, recently there has been a pay rise in the Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh, and NWFP police besides others. Only the FC has been left out.


    “Maybe it is the culture of the FC which gives them so much, but one should not take anything for granted”, says Jan Mohammad.


    The men live on vegetables and ‘roti’, as even daal is too expensive a luxury for them. “Since this SP took over we have ‘Bara Khana’ on Eid and at least can eat meat on that day”, says Subedar Major Javed Khan who has put in 29 years in the service and hopes that the present SP can stay longer. So you can no longer joke about Pakhtoons and their meat eating habits. [Interjection: Whatever on earth happened to the brave, meat-eating pakistanis?]


    “You see, he speaks excellent English unlike many SPs who normally get promoted from the ranks. Look at me, I cannot speak English. This language is very important for us in Islamabad because we have to deal with those that converse in this language”, says Khan.


    The compensation for dying on duty is Rs6.5 lakhs (1.5 lakhs come from the FC fund while the government pays up another 5 lakhs) an amount which, in theory, should reach the beneficiaries even before the body does. But till this day, the families of the ten FC soldiers who were killed a few months ago when there was a terrorist attack have still to see a single rupee.


    “After the attack we have become more vigilant and this time will take them on before they can reach us. Any suspicious movement and crossing the red line and we shoot”, says Javed Khan who is from Shabqadar.


    The others who have now formed a small circle around me all agree and slowly start trusting what they say is the only person who has ever come up to us and talked to us and shown care in this strange town.


    “In fact the FC commandant should also on his next visit come and see us instead of heading to the Frontier House”, snaps one of the younger jawans. FC Commandant Zafarullah Khan lives in a palatial house built by the British in Peshawar and it has taken my breath away with its grandeur on several visits. He has several vehicles at his disposal and though in Grade 21 lives like a viceroy and not only him but none of the commandants have done anything meaningful for their men in Islamabad.


    Maybe he needs to spend a day at this headquarters and share a mat with a soldier who sleeps on the floor as there are not enough charpoys. Forget the monsoon rains which seep in and the insects of every variety which crawl over you in summer, and the freezing all over in winters.


    If the call of nature beckons then he should run to the nearest police building if he is outside the headquarters as the camp has no toilets.


    Also, he should be ready as a sepoy to live on a Rs10,000 salary a month which should cover the cost of his laundry, food and Rs5 for ironing his uniform, etc, etc. Also with only one cup of tea he will have to stand on duty for four hours in the daytime and two hours at night. He will have a bit of rest in between but because of constraints and the unusual situation in Islamabad, he will have to be back on duty very soon during the day.


    Also he will be singing a different tune when living in a camp he goes looking for water to bring back and collect wood to light a fire for cooking.


    He will be very lucky if he has to do duty outside the embassy of Saudi Arabia, China and Kuwait, “Where we are treated very well. We get some food and we can use their lavatory also. But the others, well we could be a part of the landscape as they don’t think we are human”, is one confession.


    But these soldiers remember with great fondness some senior officers who have stuck out their necks for them and made a difference in their lives.


    “One was this DOFC from village Pir Pia at Bara. Believe me khor, after the British left the area, only he brought about such improvements that till today the FC is benefiting”, says the subedar major.


    “But we are very lucky in one aspect. After the attack on our camp, the media coverage helped, and now the soldiers have moved to police barracks from the camps and have a roof over their head”, says Jan Mohammad.


    As for the permanent headquarters which are being built it is the paucity of funds which are not allowing it to be completed.


    The SP meanwhile is off in his four-wheeler to a meeting at the Diplomatic Enclave. “I will be meeting security staff from the foreign missions. If the FC gets hit, the morale of the diplomats also gets hit. If the FC cannot protect itself then how can the diplomats be safe, this is what we have to constantly reassure them. I have asked, pleaded and begged for searchlights, fencing and trenching from the government but the diplomats say that for our needs our own government should provide the same. At least I managed to get trenching from the government, as you can see”, adds the SP.


    Two HESCO barriers have been put up and Javed Khan says, “We tried and tried but nothing came of it and we were sitting ducks. Then the SP sahib approached CCOP Peshawar City, Safat Ghayur, who put in a word and we got at least this partial protection. But anywhere else in the world we would have these barriers all around us as we are waiting to be attacked”.


    The men point towards the Marriott Hotel whose front portion is all protected by these barriers and the glory of greenery.


    So, it broke my heart to see that despite all these shortcomings, these men had even then planted a patch of flowers and plants in front of their tents which were blossoming in the face of all odds.


    “We have stopped going for ‘Juma’ prayers because of threats and now say our prayers there”, the men point out. “Their mosque”, is just small clearing of slush and mud after the recent rains and it can only be an absolute faith that makes you get down on your knees and put your forehead to the wet ground.


    So where is all the funding we keep hearing about? I do not want to embarrass these gentlemen and ask about corruption so I phone a retired FC officer in Kohat. “Corruption is at its peak during recruitment. These boys sell their mothers gold jewellery for bribes. Then the suppliers of rations ensure that these soldiers are eating inferior insect eaten ‘daal’ and other rations. There is pilferage in the supply of uniforms as well and they get substandard stuff. Where should I begin?” he asks as the line gets cut off.


    I left the headquarters with an earlier memory at one FC camp in NWFP, where this soldier had his feet cramped in kayrai (open shoes) that were quite a few sizes small for him but he had stubbornly shoved his feet in and still managed to walk normally. Someone had made a killing while supplying these shoes and the FC culture ensured a code of suffering silence. But for how long?


    The News.com.pk: Frontier Constabulary jawans: Dying comes easy to them, it’s living they can’t afford!
     
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  3. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    My word! The cravenness! For all our shortages of blood-clotting kits and allegations of corruption in supplying winter vests, the condition of out troops nowhere approximates the plight of this 'elite' pakistani paramilitary.
     
  4. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    ^^No wonder FC is performing such shoddily in NWFP.
     
  5. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

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    FC is not an elite force, its like our BSF. Though conditions for BSF are quite bad as well, atleast they get shoes to wear.
     
  6. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

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    Probably a bigger reason for their failure than the oft-touted ethnic affinities.
     
  7. Su-47

    Su-47 Regular Member

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    You really do have to feel for them. These are men who put their lives at risk on a daily basis due to their patriotism, and the politicians treat them like stray dogs. These same men have to be in the line of fire for the VVIPs they protect, and yet those VVIPs just see them as some objects.

    If those politicians were made to live in the shoes of these men for one single day, they will have a lot more appreciation for these men and their suffering.

    I know that our soldiers and police officers are better off than their pakistani counterparts, but i feel that its still too little. Right now our Defence expenditure is less than 2% of GDP. The government should spend a little more, about 2.5% on defence. Most of this increase should be in salary increases, building of better fences around the borders to cut down on terrorist crossings, and procurement of better body armour and other equipment that will bolster the survival rates and morale of our troops.
     
  8. thakur_ritesh

    thakur_ritesh Administrator Administrator

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    as a matter of fact there are two FC in pakistan, one as mentioned in the article is frontier constabulary which is more of a regular force and they are highly ill equipped and under trained and if i am not wrong then they come under the provincial governments. the elites are the frontier corps and men here are drawn from the pa who all are well equiped, and trained. the uniform is also different where the former wear shalwar kamiz and the latter are more formal uniform like one find in the pa.

    Su47,

    india's defence budget has been increased to well over 2% in the recent interem budget presented by pranab mukherjee. the figure stands at around rs1,41,703crores when the gdp size is expected to be around rs60,00,000 crores this fiscal as per one estimate of rbi.
     
  9. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    A good post but misdirected. In Pakistan, the people who call shot are not politicians but PA. It is the Pakistani Army which has treated these poor men(FC) as a cannon fodder. The coward Pakistani Army enjoying an exhorbant budget(ill-afforded by their bankrupt country) has relegated its duty to these men treating them as human shield. I am reminded of the way LTTE uses the Sri Lankan Tamilian Civilians.
     
  10. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    The "FC" is not the Frontier Constabulary. The FC is the Frontier Corps. The two are distinct. The "FC" or Frontier Corps is tasked with border patrolling and anti-smuggling operations and are akin to our BSF. The Frontier Constabulary is a federal paramilitary force largely operating in the NWFP and more recently in Punjab, delegated, among their other law and order duties, with the 'elite' responsibility of protecting Pakistan's VIP's and diplomatic installations.
     
  11. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    In common parlance, the acronym "F.C." refers only to the Frontier Corps, not the Frontier Constabulary. The Frontier Corps is stationed in the provinces of NWFP and Baluchestan and the two divisions are headed by an officer called an 'Inspector General' drawn from the regular Pakistani Army of major-general or higher rank. It is the Frontier Corps that comes under the purview of the Interior Ministry and who are poorly trained and ill-equipped, often with no more than "sandals and bolt-action rifles" (by the admission of one senior US military official). [See: t r u t h o u t | US Military Aid to Pakistan Misses Its al-Qaeda Target]. Infact, the FC has only been provided with night-vision equipment and armoured personnel carriers recently, at the urging of the US and through funding provided by them. Infact, so exiguous and lamentable are their counter-insurgency skills that there has been talk between the US and Pakistani governments to establish a training centre to impart counter-insurgency skills to their troops, and they are only heavily involved in the war against the Taliban because they are drawn from local recruits, speak the local language and understand the culture. The majority of the $9.3 billion disbursed to Pakistan so far (although this claim is disputed by the Special Secretary to Finance Dr Ashfaq Ahmad Khan who alleges it being "reimbursement to Pakistan for 'services rendered'" :big_boss:) has been directed toward the FC, with little result. So poor infact are their COIN ops, that amidst other charges of fleeing or refusing to fight the Taliban, there have been incidents involving them firing upon the Afghan Army as well.


    The Frontier Constabulary is tasked with local law and order responsibilities and the mandate to protect Pakistan's VIP's and diplomatic installations, and operate primarily in the NWFP and Punjab as expounded upon in my previous post. As of July 2002, the Frontier Constabulary has begun to be gradually merged with the NWFP FC, although they remain distinct organizations at present. They would seem to be better equipped than their FC counterparts, although if this article is any judge, not by very much.


    The following is an image of the Pakistani Frontier Constabulary from defencetalk:

    [​IMG]

    Soldiers of Frontier Constabulary - Military Pictures - Air Force Army Navy Missiles Defense
     
  12. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    While I appreciate the compassion you would feel for them at a humanitarian level, I am loathe to feel either pity or remorse. These are the very same men who would not stop to ponder notions of 'humanity' or 'compassion' when ordered to aim down at you from the barrel of a gun.

    The problem is by far not the proportion of our defence expenditure vis-a-vis a percentage of our GDP. Infact, if anything, over the last four years, nearly 16,000 crore rupees earmarked for spending by the defence ministry and defence Services have been returned unused by them for want of better avenues to spend them on. The problem is a lack of clear vision among the bureaucracy of the future trajectories, roles and prerogatives of the Armed services, and an absence of streamlining in defence acquisition procedures to match requirements and priorities. Please see: A Lazy Argument.
     
  13. Su-47

    Su-47 Regular Member

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    The same is true for most soldiers around the world. They kill when ordered to kill. Its part of being a soldier.

    I actually feel more sorry for them for that. Its a terrible thing to take a human life. I just went to visit a classmate who lost her mother in a car accident. She is not even a close friend and yet her misery made me feel very upset. Soldiers have to knowingly inflict that kind of pain on others. Think how miserable they will be doing that. There maybe some psychos who enjoy it, but most of them have to bite down their own misery and self-conscience and do what they are told, whether it is to kill or be killed. I think these men deserve more respect than they currently receive.
     
  14. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    There's not much I can say to that. On a platonic level, you are entirely correct: it takes guts to end with abruptness the life of another, knowing full well that you might just as well meet the same fate. When it concerns the national interest however- and the protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this Republic in particular- there is no room for either sympathy, caritas or altruism. Realize also that I am not trying to engage in didactics here. There is simply no role for emotion in the inclement world of politics as we have it today: in the paraphrased words of Machiavelli: "it is fatuous to attempt to be a sheep when one is surrounded on all sides by wolves; nor is it untrue that among other things caused by being disarmed or weak, it renders you contemptible. 'tis better to be loved than to be feared, but where no love is lost between men - and in this dystopian world of politics I can assure you it is not - far better is it to be feared instead.

    And in the even more apt and apposite words of Chankya: "Do not repose the full of your faith in rivers, men that carry weapons, beasts with claws or horns, women, and otherwise members of a royal family, for they will visit death upon you at the first sign of grievance."
     

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