International Police Cooperation – Unimaginable Bravery – Sporting Diplomacy -The Fayyaz Sumbal Foundation
The value of the AFP’s International Liaison Officer network has often been described as the jewel in the crown of AFP operations with officers, being posted to areas in Asia and the Pacific with postings such as London, Washington, The Hague, are much sought after, as they should be. In this context Islamabad was mostly, and probably rightly, seen through the prism of security challenges. Against this backdrop there appeared to be little appetite for an increased engagement to assist Pakistan. This was to change significantly in 2010 as will be detailed later.
By way of background the AFP first posted a liaison officer to Pakistan in the mid 1980’s, its role at that time was very much focussed on exchanging operational and actionable intelligence in stemming the flow of hashish and heroin emanating from the so called Golden Crescent countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. It was then estimated that about 10% of Australia’s heroin originated from the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The liaison officers were posted with little in terms of disposable funds so to assist local authorities they relied on professional cooperation, goodwill and often leveraged on being a Commonwealth country, our joint love of squash, cricket and hockey with Australia and Pakistan being competitive, but respected rivals. Who could forget the sublime skills and wristy Pakistan sportsmen of the era, Jahangir Khan, Jansher Khan and Geoff Hunt, cricketers Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Abdul Qadir, Dennis Lillee and the Chappell brothers, and of course hockey players, including Rick Charlesworth and the so-called Maradonna of world hockey, Shahbaz Ahmed.
The role of the liaison officers naturally evolved. Transnational crimes of People smuggling, trafficking and migration fraud became major issues and there were some 3 million Afghan refugees being housed in Pakistan. The generosity of Pakistan to accommodate these people inside their country, for what now has been over 3 decades is generous in the extreme. The borders were porous, when combined with a somewhat unfortunate declaration at independence in 1947 of the Durand Line, (an artificial boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan), dissecting tribes and the ethnic Pushtoons, it became a haven for smuggled goods, dutiable goods, illicit goods and anything which basically had a price differential would be traded. Afghanistan, a land locked country, has trade agreements whereby imported goods can transit Pakistan uninspected, enter Afghanistan only to see them smuggled back.
By the late 1990’s Pakistan was confronting issues on many fronts. Border issues with Afghanistan, India, Iran and Kashmir to name just a few, were together with the internal religious, ethnic, political and economic challenges simply overwhelming. Each province had unique and often debilitating challenges. Not to cast too fine a point, the country was in crisis, and in a fight for survival. And then all hell broke loose with 9/11 and its consequences for Pakistan.
The aftermath of the so-called war on terror added another significant dimension to the role of the liaison officers. With attacks launched on coalition troops from the tribal areas of Pakistan there was a compelling remit to ratchet up the cooperation to assist in the effort to counter-terrorism in support of coalition and Australian interests in nearby Afghanistan. This necessitated working much closer with Intelligence Agencies.
By 2008/9 the Taliban and other groups were then inflicting over 2,000 terrorist attacks each year in Pakistan, targeting all manner of people and institutions, including International cricket teams, international hotels, refugee agencies, with the military and police taking a heavy toll in defending their country. Senior officials, politicians, places of worship, even Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, there was no place to hide. Almost anything and everyone were in the line of fire were collateral damage. Hundreds of police and military personnel were being killed each year. Seen as collateral damage was the heavy toll that was also taken on the civilian population.
The country was, it could be said, somewhat pessimistic for its survival, not the least due to the war on terror, but the economic situation was also grave. Along the way they were also inflicted with massive floods and earthquakes, as if they needed anything else to go wrong.
In 2008/09 Australia became a foundation partner with other countries in a grouping called the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, which was inaugurated with Pakistan to enhance economic prosperity, enhance civil capacity and enforce the rule of law, as well as engaging in the political dialogue.
In 2009 then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith visited Pakistan, somewhat surprisingly, some 10 years since a previous Foreign Minister visit. The appreciation he no doubt gained, together with our support for the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, saw considerable funds being provided to DFAT for civilian law enforcement capability development. These funds were provided to the AFP as the implementing agency to increase the capability of the Pakistani agencies, to investigate and prosecute terrorists, increase the forensic capability of Pakistan and provide training in areas where there were capability gaps.
In 2010 the AFP presence in Islamabad increased from one (1) member to five (5) for the purposes of delivering on the objectives and capability requirements. From the outset, there appeared to be little thought given to the development proposal. Little engagement had occurred to determine what the Pakistani’s wanted or needed and there was a myriad of international agencies working the space, many simply consultants providing so called blue prints of what was required. Pakistan seemed almost fatigued by more so-called donor countries and organisations coming through their doors with promises of training, equipment and other so called best practice initiatives.
In early 2010 this assistance fatigue became evident and was driven home very early to me by the then police head of terrorism for Sindh Police, Mushatt Mahar, during a visit to this bustling city of Karachi, a city of some 20 million people, a city I affectionately call the Pearl of the Arabian Sea. In fact, in a return visit to Karachi in early 2018 I met up with Mushtaq Mahar, who had graduated to become Chief of Karachi Police. He reminded me of what the AFP had done in Pakistan over the years and that the AFP were used by him as an example where we were able to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. In his view, many agencies were simply wasting time, money and resources by not being able to deliver what was required in their hour of need.
In 2010 the militants in the southern city has fought their way into the heavily fortified CT Command of Karachi with a truck laden with 1,000kg bombs levelled several buildings where terrorist suspects were being held, this was an example of what lengths they were prepared to go to. Two of our young liaison officers had been in the Command earlier that day and were a short distance away when the bombing rattled Karachi.
This early assistance provided to the Counter Terrorism Unit became somewhat of a template for us, in that by getting out to meet relevant law enforcement chiefs and operatives, we could better understand their requirements. In this instance, there was a requirement to develop their telephone analysis capability and so technical equipment was provided along with interview voice stress analysers.
By way of background Pakistan law enforcement is structured, in many ways, along Australian lines, Pakistan being a Federation with four major provinces or states consisting of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) and Baluchistan. As well there are many other federal agencies such as the Federal Investigation Agency, Customs, National and Provincial Forensic Agencies, Anti-Narcotics Force and Anti-Corruption Agencies. So, across Pakistan we were dealing with some seventeen (17) agencies.
The officer cadre enter the policing program through a competitive exam process and often they had studied as engineers or other university programs and then enter 12 months of training at the Police Service of Pakistan Academy in Islamabad. Officers are then posted out to the policing agencies across Pakistan and often posted away from their families to the so called remote areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.
It was through this network of officer class mates that enabled the senior police to gain cooperation in the other provinces. This ‘batch’ or class mates, also mostly determined a system of seniority as they rise up through ranks in gaining promotion. Due to the extreme difficulties in visiting some area and the existential the threat of the terrorists we would often ask senior police if they had a batch mate in certain area and then we could effectively pass on or seek operational information.
In one instance, there was an urgent requirement to seek details of componentry that was seized in Baluchistan and destined for Afghanistan, that we engaged a former chief of that province to contact the chief of police in Baluchistan and thus enabling timely information on the type of componentry and likely place of manufacture.
As the cooperation program developed, we were delighted with the uptake of our key engagement area of forensics in the Punjab and the provincial police services. As an example, we had a request from Karachi to provide a bullet capture tank for examination of weapons and cartridges seized by the police for comparison. To purchase a capture tank in a foreign location would have cost us all up about $100,000. With a little ingenuity and a capable manufacturer in Lahore we were able to supply all the Provinces and the Punjab Forensic Science Agency with one so basically, we got five for the price of one.
In all, the cooperation program ran for four years and we made a point of regularly visiting each province to meet with senior police. Often, they had transferred from other provinces so a network of senior police was established. It wasn’t simply the process of providing sophisticated equipment and training, it was also an appetite to engage at a social level, despite this being frowned upon by local intelligence agencies. Mostly, our liaison was to be channelled through the Pakistan Interior Ministry, however, in most instances the informal network was both effective in reaching the intended recipients.
Having continuity of liaison officers was also, in my view, very important in maintaining this network of relationships. Many others, such as the US DEA and FBI, were passing through on 12 month deployments, making the depth of relationships difficult to progress. The AFP magazine, The Platypus, was distributed far and wide across the senior heads of agencies in Pakistan and was an appreciated as a small gesture in informing police of modern policing techniques. The Pakistanis have a very good appetite for seeking knowledge and this was an opportunity to get the messages out to the remote areas.
The International Police network in Pakistan had a cadre of senior police officers from the German BKA, the Royal Spanish Police, the Italian Carabinieri, US DEA, FBI, Homeland Affairs, Netherlands Police, UK NCA, UK METPOL, French, Norwegian and a number of others. This third country network also met regularly to ensure that our combined law enforcement efforts did not overlap and we shared experiences. These police were often able to influence and guide their respective country’s development assistance programs in what can work and to learn from prior mistakes, understanding through shared experiences. There were also several UN agencies including UNDP, UNODA and many others so the donor community was crowded to say the least.
In 2010 some 400 Pakistan police officers were killed by terrorist activity, fact yes, a rate of one each day had been killed in the one year and the devastation, as difficult as it is to imagine or comprehend, was devastating to the morale and wellbeing of the Pakistan Police.
Amongst this carnage and desperation, the assistance we were providing might have been some consolation. However, as we were captives of that environment as well prompted us to think of ways we could assist. It was through this network of like-minded law enforcement officials that the AFP Liaison Office initiated some sporting interaction for the foreign and local community, in forming the Islamabad Dashers, whereby we would arrange events such as the Islamabad Ironman Triathlon, Swimming events, Relays and runs within Islamabad.
These events, on average would involve 100 participants with the grateful assistance of the Islamabad Police maintaining security. Whilst most events were held inside the diplomatic enclave, many events evolved to include runs up Constitution Avenue and the nearby Margalla Hills.
These events would each typically raise, with the aid of local sponsorship, in the vicinity of US$5,000 which was then passed onto the welfare branches of the respective police services to assist those families of the martyred or injured police members effected by terrorism. Whilst this could have been seen as a somewhat tokenistic the gesture, the respect, credibility and camaraderie this garnered, was appreciated.
By 2013 our program had then been running several years, and the initial objectives had evolved to having delivered in excess of over one hundred (100) separate law enforcement cooperative initiative with forensics being a particular highlight. Most of programs delivered were as hands on as possible and we developed training programmes to utilise in-country subject matter experts, as all the police from each province were acutely aware, of the issues with each province having their subtleties in the fight against the Taliban. By bringing these police experts from across the provinces together to discuss local issues instead of running programs that had been contracted to Australian institutions which cost us up to $250,000 each to deliver. Once again local solutions through shared experiences.
On occasions, we sourced expert officials for conferences in Australia as we had much to learn and share with people that were on the front line. One of these initiatives was to source suitably qualified, senior officials to attend the Australian Bomb Data Centre (ABDC) events in Australia. On this occasion, a nominee received was from the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) Deputy Inspector General of Police Fayyaz Ahmed Sumbal, who was then deployed to Baluchistan.
In August 2013, a local police officer was killed in the provincial city of Quetta and, as is the practise in Islam, prayers and a burial are arranged prior to sunset. The ceremony was held in the police training grounds that afternoon and as senior police commenced arriving Fayyaz Sumbal saw a ‘police’ officer that intuitively drew his attention. Upon confronting him this person, detonated a suicide jacket which resulted in some 38 other police members being killed, including Sumbal. This again demonstrates how nimble and innovative these terrorists are to be able to get on the ‘inside’ to cause terror. The Inspector General of Baluchistan Police, Mushtaq Ahmed, as a result, was saved from this explosion. He was some months later again targeted with a truck fully laden with explosives that levelled his domestic residence in Quetta, again fortunately, he survived that attack.
Our program of Islamabad Dashers events also evolved to include a series of cricket matches, as there was always an appetite for the locals to play us in cricket and of course to beat us. There was nothing better after these matches than to re-visit the innings or bowling efforts with the winners maintaining bragging rights until the next match. With the National Forensic Science Agency (NFSA) it started out as a one-off event and at each loss we re-engineered the series to be best of three, then best of five, much to the amusement of all.
For these matches we even had an American umpire Chuck Bennett, a retired former Chief of Police in Lynchburg Virginia was providing assistance in Pakistan through the US ICITAP program. Chuck became enamoured with cricket in Pakistan and as he has some difficulty in determining LBW decisions, as the Pakistanis were vociferous appealers, he did know the rules of cricket with respect to things like if a ball hits a cow in the field of play and then goes on the full over the boundary what the result would be. Chuck would always turn up with his Fedora hat, black slacks and white shirt.
As an aside the then Australian High Commissioner held a cricket function at his residence and asked us to auction a Ricky Ponting signed bat during proceedings. I politely informed the High Commissioner that we needed a local luminary to get some action as the appeal of a Ricky Ponting bat in Pakistan could be limited. As the event was on later that night we arranged for one of our liaison officers through their contacts, to go to the local studio where Imran Khan was commenting on the World Cup with our friend Shoaib Akhtar. An hour or so later a bat signed by Imran was delivered, much to the surprise of the High Commissioner, “how did that happen” he asked, “contacts” High Commissioner.
The Ricky Ponting bat was auctioned for AUD 1,200 and is now proudly owned by the aforementioned Chuck Bennett, and is sitting proudly in his house in West Virginia. The Imran Khan signed bat went to a local for a similar amount and the High Commissioner’s wife was able to donate AUD2,500 to local charities.
On one occasion in 2014 we visited Peshawar, the capital of the troubled province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Historically during the 1960’s and 70’s Peshawar was a stopping off point for those tourist on the overland ‘hippy trail’. Hashish, alcohol and parties were part of the adventure. On this day, we went to check on progress on some developments in their forensic laboratory and set off early that day with an additional goodwill gesture of US$5,000 in raised funds to give to the local police. We travelled up the Grand Trunk Road in our armoured vehicle and stopped halfway for the customary cup of chai at a beautiful location where the Indus River converges with the Kabul river. A view worth seeing.
In Peshawar, we met a senior police official Azad Khan, a much-admired and knowledgeable and respected senior police officer, whom we had known from his prior posting in Karachi. On behalf of their Inspector General of Police, Azad accepted the funds for the Police Welfare Branch and after a customary cup of chai we then headed towards the Khyber Pass where the Forensic facility was located. We were informed that there had been an incident at a nearby Army School, however the visit proceeded. By the end of the day it had emerged that some 140 school children had been massacred by the Taliban, coincidentally this was some two days before the Lindt Café siege in Sydney. Just a matter of a few weeks later the school was reopened for business with the Army drawing a line in the sand and mobilising into the nearby tribal area to take the terrorism to its natural conclusion. They have been highly successful.
During one of our visits to Lahore we set out to walk the local botanic gardens, located nearby to our hotel, (a practice that was discouraged by our security protocols) to get out and about, but this did lead us to finding the historic Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Club located in the middle of the large botanic garden facility. Established in 1880 with a historic clubhouse, this seemed like a relic from the colonial era, which indeed it was. A few enquiries and a bit of innovation saw us discuss the possibility of playing a match in Lahore V’s the Gymkhana Club. Unbeknown to us at the time, the Secretary Javed Zaman was from the famous Khan clan and lived in the Khan enclave, called Zaman Park which has its own cricket club.
A match in Lahore presented a number of security issues, however with encouragement and perseverance it made sense to take the show on the road to Lahore. Peter Heyward, the then High Commissioner, and the Punjab Police supported the initiative and we arranged a match under the auspices of remembrance of Fayyaz Sumbal, the PSP officer from the Punjab, but killed in Quetta as described earlier. Through contacts we engaged with the immediate family of Fayyaz, his wife Erum Rafiq and met with them and their two children. They supported the concept and the fixture was a resounding success with Fayyaz’s young son Sami then just 8 years old giving a speech in honour of his father, presentations. As a result, it was decided to establish the Fayyaz Sumbal Foundation which has become a registered charity in both Australia and Pakistan.
Many doubted that the foundation could have lasted past the postings of two of the founding directors, Danny Caruana a serving AFP member and the author. I am happy to report that we led a cricket team visit to Pakistan in March 2018 to play for the 5th edition of the Fayyaz Sumbal Foundation Cup match held at the Gymkhana Club in Lahore.
This occasion was further saddened in the knowledge that just a few months earlier (in June 2018) one of our most enthusiastic supporters and former colleague, Deputy Inspector General of Police Mobin Ahmed was killed in a suicide attack in Lahore. Mobin had played in each of the previous Fayyaz Sumbal matches. Some of the other players that have graced these matches had included Salim Malik who has scored over 6,000 test runs and the fastest ever recorded bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, who remains a friend and supporter of the foundation.
Our tour in March 2018 also included games against Pakistan Police in Islamabad with the Inspector General of Police, Dr Syed Kalim Imam playing and gracing the occasion with the Police band and other political dignitaries. The six-match series included several games in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi with our last event televised in a game against the Pakistan Television and Radio All-Stars played under lights at the Moin Khan Cricket Academy, again giving good local coverage to the Fayyaz Sumbal Foundation Cup cause.
The Pakistan Cricket Board hosted us for lunch and this was during the Pakistan Super League, which highlighted that Pakistan again had a strong desire to host, securely, International cricket being returned to Pakistan. The six-match series was drawn, diplomatically I suspect, at three all and with an invitation to return at some near point, probably in 2020, where we have agreed to play a game in Quetta, a remote, harsh and often lawless but beautiful area of Pakistan.
Of interest to our cricket tour in March was the great Australian cricket name Ponsford, with sisters Megan and Ruby, granddaughters of the legendary Bill Ponsford joining us on tour. Megan a sports and photographic historian is writing a book on this first tour by an Australian cricket team and will be published shortly. Megan was able to in Lahore meet with several descendants of the Pakistan players that played in the 1936 match and was able to retrieve photographs and other information for her book. Ruby, not to be outdone by her older sister, is a player of a unique style of tennis called Royal Tennis and exhibited her athletic skill to don the flannels to again have a Ponsford represent Australia.
By the way as a part of sub-continent cricket history, an unofficial test match was held on this ground in 1936 when an ‘Australian’ team was the first Australian touring team in the subcontinent. The tour was sponsored, pre-partition, by the Maharaja of Patiala each playing member receiving about 200 pounds for the three-month tour. The then Maharaja was an avid sportsman and coined the term ‘Patiala Peg’ whereby he would ply visiting sportsmen with three to four fingers of straight scotch in order for the team to not play up to expectations the following day.
Sadly by 2015 the Australian Law Enforcement Cooperation Program in Pakistan, as we had known it, was effectively closed in line with general aid cuts by the government. We still have an opportunity to rediscover the goodwill with a modest and targeted development program. That will be the subject of another article.
During our cricket visit in early 2018 the Pakistani Police continued the fine cooperation as a mark of respect and greatly wished for the cooperation to have continued. Pleasingly during our visit, we noted that some barriers had started to be scaled back which indicated, whilst the insurgency and the Taliban have not yet been completely routed, there is a more optimistic security framework evident.
Our special thanks go to the people of Pakistan who made us feel so welcome, the Pakistan Cricket Board, the Chiefs of Police and friends made during our respective postings. Out of adversity there was always a resilience, bravery and an unshakeable faith in their own survival. This article honours the fallen, the injured and police as being true sons of the soil.
Meanwhile back in Australia goodwill matches and Fayyaz Sumbal matches have continued to be held in Melbourne, Perth, Hobart and Canberra and we are now pleased to announce the details of the next 2019 Community Cup, to be held at Bradman Oval in Bowral on Saturday, 12 January 2019. The match will be a double-header with a Pakistan Community XI taking on Yaralla, followed by the AFP against the NSW Police. If you are in the vicinity make the trip, enjoy and support the Foundation.
Further information can be found at www.fayyazsumbalfoundation.org
Pakistan Zindabad (long live Pakistan)