“Armed Police Force has Capability to Cope With Diasters”


Nov. 21, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. 04 No.-11, Nov 19 2010 (Mangsir 03, 2067)

When SANAT KUMAR BASNET was promoted to the post of Inspector General of Armed Police Force one and a half years ago, the law and order situation was out of control. Thanks to the efforts made by all security agencies, including the Armed Police Force, the situation, except some sporadic incidents of violence, has improved a lot now. The Armed Police Force was established twelve years ago in the context of growing Maoist insurgency. It has seen many ups and downs since its inception. Lately, as Nepal is regarded as one of the most vulnerable countries in case of an earthquake, which is said to be overdue, the Armed Police Force is preparing to work as a frontline agency. IGP Basnet spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues regarding the overall scenario. Excerpts:

As incidents of kidnapping, extortion and killing increased in the Terai, how did you handle this?

There was a rise in conflicts of certain kinds. In the context of this new security environment, particularly the growing internal dissension between various groups within the nation, Nepal required a new force. As is common in several parts of the world, the conflict was growing between the rich and the poor, the Madhesis and the Pahadis, the ethnic and the non-ethnic groups as well as between ideologies in Nepal., a new force was required to deal with the situation. Nepal’s two traditional forces, Nepal Army and Nepal Police, alone would not meet the new requirement as Nepal had been passing through a new phase. Thus, the Armed Police Force was born to address these emerging trends.

How do you describe the new security scenario?
The security scenario changes from time to time in the world. The world was divided into three blocks during the cold war, namely Warsaw, NATO and other countries. During that time there was a possibility of conflicts and wars with obvious reasons between powerful nations. Thus all powerful countries focused their attention to strengthening the military and enhancing their technical capability. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the situation has changed.

How do you describe the role of APF in maintaining law and order?
Along with Nepal Police, the APF has put in all its efforts to maintain the law and order situation in the country. Thanks to this, the situation has improved a lot. During the period of Dashain and Tihar festivals, you did not hear about major robberies and crimes in the country.  The Armed Police put all its professional efforts to contain the situation. Due to heavy patrolling in the highways, there was no incident of night bus robbery. We are working under a motto of service to the people. You can see our personnel taking care of highways, roads and other main installations. Nobody feels any threat. We have made the highways safer to travel. Unlike in the past, the highway is now predictable and safe. Our personnel waste no time in providing complete security. Last year, there were 19 incidents of bus robberies. There was no single incident this year. You need to relate our role in this present context.

But news reports indicate a deteriorating law and order situation. How do you explain that?

Instead of going to newspaper reports, you need to go to officials records. I don’t want to comment on the basis of hearsay. What I am saying is on the basis of our records. Facts speak volumes. Now, one can travel by bus safely and reach the destination accordingly. You can see for yourself whether the situation has improved or deteriorated.

There were reports of kidnapping and extortion. Are not they a fact?

No country can guarantee hundred percent security to all. The fact is that Armed Police was able to release people from kidnappers and protect people’s lives.

It is often reported that there is a rampant politicization in the police force. What do you say?
I don’t agree with this. There is no politicization at all. We’re running our organization on the basis of institutional rules and regulations and politicians have been doing their work. So far as the Armed Police Force is concerned, it is running as it needs to run. I don’t want to comment on such biased remarks.

One of the major jobs of APF is to work in the time of major disasters like earthquakes. Tell me how long will it take for your organization to start the rescue work if there is a major earthquake like that of Haiti?
One of the mandates of APF is to carry out disaster management work.  So far as rescue operation at the time of a major earthquake in Kathmandu is concerned, APF has already done homework and we have a plan to move and start the rescue operation as soon as possible. Given the present capability we will reach the spot very soon.

How vulnerable is Kathmandu?

Kathmandu has 5 million people in a number of houses that are constructed without being seismic proof.   Given the number of people, houses and road standards, the devastation will be unimaginable. A major quake will ruin electricity, water, roads, and bridges. The situation will be horrifying. Nobody can predict what will happen to our only one international airport and only one road that links the valley to outside world and the rest of the country. The life will be miserable.

What capability does APF have in such a situation?

Nepal lies between Indian and European plates. This is a meeting point since these two plates are in the process of merging. Nepal completely lies in that belt and it will take time to cope with any kind of disasters. Looking at all these scenarios, APF has already started preliminary work. Recently, I presented a paper showing this scenario when I was in Hawaii along with the US ambassador to Nepal. The US ambassador also agreed on the need to uplift and enhance our capability. Recently a team of US Pacific Command visited Nepal to see the situation. They were highly impressed by our performance.  We are overstretched due to the number of police but we have been doing the best to put our force in alert all the time.

What are other preparations?
We organized a demonstration in Kurintar in August. We have already established a Disaster Management Training Center. We have 32,000 forces. We are now concentrating on how to make our force strong and capable to perform all the duties. We are in the process.  We will effectively reach the places when there are disasters or quakes. Our force is ready and alert.

How do you rate the state of equipment?

Frankly speaking, we have traditional equipment. We have some boats for rivers, and gloves. We have ladders to face quakes. We have already asked for a cannon fodder and fire brigade. The Ministry of Home also allocated Rs. 5 million each to Armed Police Force and Nepal Police to purchase the equipment. This is not enough. Huge resources are required to purchase the equipment. The world is now interested in the welfare of human beings. The thrust of the world is how to save human beings.  APF has been doing its best. The disaster cell which is under the ministry is also supporting us.

How do you plan to start rescue in a situation when you don’t have basic equipment?

I have told you that we have just started to equip ourselves. In the last two or three years, we have made a tremendous progress to enhance our capacity and capability. If this process continues, APF will be much capable in coming two to three years.

The number of tall buildings is rising. How will you launch the rescue operation in a situation where a fire blazes at the tenth floor when you have fire brigades capable to lift the water up to just the fourth floor?There is no doubt that our fire brigades are old. In the past, the fire brigade used to be with municipalities. This traditional approach has changed now and the government is considering providing fire brigades to institutions like APF. There is a shift in the approach. This is a good sign.  Our donor countries have also shown interest to equip our institutions. This is a good beginning. What we need to be proud of is that we will have a well equipped institution and force to launch the rescue in case of major disasters.

How much does your organization share in the expertise of NSET?

We have very good relations with organizations like NSET. We organize programs jointly. They provide us with skills and knowledge. APF has more than 50 tasks. We are getting a lot of support from them.

How is your organization doing overall?
It is up to you to evaluate the situation. I cannot claim that we are capable. The people will need to see if we have done good work. We are committed to enhance our capacity in times of disasters and earth quakes. We have been doing our best to be more efficient with existing resources and manpower. Frankly speaking, we will be more capable within a year but I cannot claim that we are capable right now.

Do you have any capability to fight terrorist acts?

Yes, we have a special battalion in Kathmandu and there is a battalion in each district headquarters.  The name of special battalion is the Special Task Force. The manpower is well trained to deal with plane hijacking, embassy seize and trouble in other VIP and VVIP areas.  Looking at various scenarios, we have prepared our forces. We have also strengthened our intelligence system to preempt such incidents.

How do you find the coordination among various security agencies?Under the Central Security Committee, which is headed by the Home Minister, there was a good coordination among Armed Police Force, Nepal Police, National Investigation Department and Nepal Army. We discuss matters related to security under this committee. Security is a common job of all of us including the people. I can say that we have the best coordination among us. We have a very cordial relation.



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