There have been more than a thousand bomb attacks across Peshawar district alone in the last decade. If the bomb disposal unit of the province did not exist, these stats would have been twice as high, which mean twice as many people could have been killed by terrorists.
If statistics are a measure of success, the BDU has defused more than five thousand bombs since 2009. This translates into two bombs every three days. Statistics do not, however, always do justice to ground realities and neither do all bombs defused make it to the news.
When bombs first became part of the new normal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the BDS tackled them by trial and error. “The fact is that the militants were more advanced in their technology of terror than the police,” a senior police officer involved in developing the counter-terror policy at the time told Samaa Digital. “They used washing machine timers, lead-based covers to avoid detection and even stuffed dead bodies with explosives.”
But the BDS did such a good job, that they themselves became the target.
Terrorism hit the province in 2009 for the first time. At the time, as was the case with other KP police units, the BDS staff too was defusing thousands of bombs without proper training and equipment. The squad has lost 15 members, including officers and personnel. But even if we apply a simple analogy of saving one life per bomb attack, they have 5,000 lives to their credit. But this is not all: these heroes have inspired others to sign up for this dangerous and unpredictable job.
“It gives us strength and we care about no one but innocent citizens,” says BDS officer Ali. The minute they receive information about a bomb their first thought goes to the people.
The KP government set up the Police School of Explosives Handling in Nowshera in 2015. So far it has so far trained 3,000 people, including 83 women. One of them is Safia Naz from Nowshera, who is very clear that she took up this work because she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her heroes and she wanted to protect her people.
The school’s director, Niaz Muhammad Yousafzai, explained that because of their experience, they have not just been limited to training policemen from KP but are also equipping them from Balochistan, Islamabad, and even the Pakistan Railways.
One of the pioneers of the bomb disposal team was Inspector Hukum Khan. He embraced martyrdom as did ASI Abdul Haq, another pioneering member. In fact, six BDS members have been martyred in Peshawar, five in Bannu and two each in Swabi and Swat, according to Waqar Ahmed, the director of KP police’s public relations department.
Eventually the BDS bought a remote-controlled vehicle so its personnel didn’t have to put their lives in danger by directly handling the explosives. The only problem is that these machines don’t work in the mountains. Battery faults have developed over the last two years and the team hasn’t been able to use them.
But technology has never been a hindrance in the way of these valiant men and women. When they are needed, they are ready to stand deliver without any questions.