What is even more worrying is the ease and confidence with which such attacks are being carried out. Two gunmen simply strolled to the spot in their slippers, shot at the man in full public view and got away in his motorbike. These were no rookies. The hit job reminds us of the Jamim Shah murder last year. The police said the attacks on Shah and Asif were not just carried out by the same gunmen, they could also be linked to the murder of Shaukat Beg in Butwal last year, the Indian businessman Anjani Kumar Chachan last week and the attack on Yunus Ansari inside prison last month.
In a studio discussion on an Indian news channel last week, ex-intelligence and security experts openly discussed ways to eliminate anti-Indian activities in Nepal. "India can't just sit back and watch," was the general refrain. They went on to raise fears of "growing Chinese and ISI nexus" in Nepal that goes unchecked due to corrupt political leadership and instability in Nepal, and how this was giving New Delhi a major headache.
These statements from Indian ex-military top brass hints at a thriving world of espionage and covert operations of which our own intelligence agencies have no clue. A senior CIB official admitted to us this week: "Yes, we have failed in counter-intelligence, and everybody out there needs to know this. Only then will they begin asking why we have failed." That may be cryptic logic, but you can't expect intelligence to operate effectively in absence of resource and logistical support. Outsiders seem to have free movement in Nepal because we have not been intelligent enough to give intelligence due importance over the years. A guy riding an embassy vehicle and playing golf with you might be masterminding these covert operations. How do you find out?
As usual, there are scapegoats. The chief of the metropolitan police, Pushkar Karki, was held responsible for 'security lapses' and removed. But the shooting of the Pakistani official was not a failure of security, it was a failure of intelligence. There are 4,700 officers on duty policing the 4.5 million floating population of Kathmandu. The Valley has 28 entry points, only 7 have checkposts. The 1,690 km open border with India is largely unregulated, and there is no record of people who cross over. Hotels, guests houses and immigration office do not keep databases of those who come and go. Militants in the Tarai terrorise people and find safe haven across the border. International criminals like Babloo Srivastav use high profile political connections to obtain Nepali passports to carry out criminal activities here. You can't expect the police to prevent crimes without addressing these security loopholes. Nepal Police might be tainted with criminalisation and corruption, but it just reflects the general malaise at the top.
Intelligence and the resources and training to gather them are the key to enhance effective policing. For that the whole nature of policing has to change in this transition period blotted with the politicisation of crime and criminalisation of politics. We have seen how a few honest top cops can bring change if they want to, but they need political support from the highest levels. Rulers have to show the political will to let the police carry on with their jobs and not interfere to set free crooks when they are nabbed. Nepal Police has capable people that could make our cities and villages much safer but for that to happen, the institution must be freed from political garbage it puts up with.
Murders of the dons of organised crime or diplomats in Kathmandu grab the headlines, but in the districts ordinary citizens suffer from an epidemic of murders, abductions, extortion and intimidation. Impunity and the breakdown in law and order have made Nepal an ideal breeding ground for international criminals and for rival foreign intelligence agencies to wage turf battles.
India is understandably worried about the fake currency and terror suspects slipping into its territory from Nepal. We do not have the intelligence capability to assuage their concerns, so they do their policing on our soil. We just don't have the counter-intelligence capacity to monitor and thwart their covert operations. The only solution lies in ensuring political stability and integrity of the security apparatus so that the political will translates into a clear commitment to address impunity and security. Only then will the state be able to fulfill its primary function of protecting its citizens from harm.
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