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Vacant posts: Wanted - officers to command FC in Balochistan

By Zahid Gishkori

ISLAMABAD: The Frontier Corps has often been criticised for its alleged unaccountability and highhandedness in Balochistan. Yet, it seems that the paramilitary force has its own troubles internally, in terms of officers to handle the troops on the ground.

Battling a growing insurgency, Balochistan’s Frontier Corps is facing a whopping 60 per cent shortfall in sanctioned officers to run the affairs of the force.

According to a document prepared by the Inspector General of the FC, Major-General Ejaz Shahid, 248 officers are currently commanding over 50,000 personnel in the strife-hit province. The current strength is against a sanctioned number of 829 officers – translating into 581 vacancies.

FC Balochistan Col Hayat is said to have communicated this pressing issue numerous times to Pakistan Army but is yet to receive a response from the General Headquarters.

“FC is forced to accept wider gaps which are exploited by both anti-state elements and smugglers. It’s overstretched due to diverse employment tasks. It’s in absence of air mobility. There is no existence of advanced surveillance means which necessitates extensive physical deployment to affect desired security. Due to extensive use of FC in all kinds of tasks it is seen as over-stepping its charter,” read the document prepared by the IG FC. There are an estimated 42,398 soldiers, 1,915 junior-commissioned officers (a shortage of 147), 2,482 non-commissioned officers (a shortage of 156), 75 religious teachers and 1,108 ministerial staff in FC Balochistan with 16 corps, 58 wings and 11 minor units.

“Many FC personnel have not received their monthly salaries and millions of rupees owed to the families of FC martyrs are still pending,” IG FC Ejaz Shahid told a Senate panel last month.

Four FC commandants who asked not to be named spoke to The Express Tribune about the issue. They cited two reasons behind the scarcity of team leaders in the force: One, Army officers are not willing to join FC due to severe situation on the ground in the volatile areas of Balochistan. Secondly, Pakistan Army is unable to spare officers for the FC as it is mired in its own troubles – including ground operations in both defensive and offensive positions along the bordering areas with Afghanistan.

“We badly need officers to command FC personnel in Dera Bugti, Turbat, Panjgur, Khuzdar and other districts. We are on the back foot there,” said a colonel on the condition of anonymity.

A spokesperson for the military did not comment, saying he needed time to get back on the issue. Balochistan government spokesperson Jan Buledi said that the FC deals directly with the GHQ, so he was not aware of its affairs.

At least 359 FC personnel lost their lives and 928 were injured in militant attacks in last seven years, the documents revealed.

It further revealed that the government only released Rs15 billion of Rs28.5 billion promised to the FC Balochistan for 2013-14. The government slashed 30 per cent funds citing financial constraints. Similarly, the government had released only Rs14.3 billion of promised Rs25.4 billion in 2012-13.

On the other hand, the force faces controversies regarding the finances that it does get. Official documents prepared by auditors revealed irregularities worth Rs570 million in the accounts of FC Balochistan during the last fiscal year. The FC purchased vehicles worth Rs570 million without following the prescribed process and without the approval of the finance ministry. It also failed to inform the vehicles committee about the purchase till auditors discovered the irregularity.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2014.

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