Pakistan honours fallen bomb disposal officer with award

Family members and officials pay glowing tributes to officer who died in line of duty; Hukam Khan was posthumously awarded the Sitara-i-Shujjat (Star of Bravery) for gallantry.

By Zahir Shah

2012-10-01

PESHAWAR – Akram Khan, a policeman and the eldest son of the late Hukam Khan, is proud of his valiant father.

The head of the Peshawar Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) September 28 sacrificed his life while trying to defuse a bomb on Frontier Road in Bara Sheikhan, on the boundary with troubled Khyber Agency. Officials the next day posthumously awarded him the Sitara-i-Shujjat (Star of Bravery) – one of Pakistan’s highest awards for gallantry.

The fallen hero’s funeral prayer was offered at Malik Saad Shaheed Police Lines September 28, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Barrister Masud Kausar, KP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti and senior civil, police and army officials providing a final salute. He later was buried with honours in his native village.

Akram Khan, who also has been trained to dispose of bombs, is committed to continue his father’s mission of defeating terrorism, as are his younger brothers Adam and Bilal.

“It was my father’s wish to get martyred, and he used to pray every day for it, and his wish came true,” Akram Khan told Central Asia Online. “Not only our family, but the entire Kohi Daman (his native area), is proud of Hukam Khan’s bravery.”

“My father fought deadly bombs with his bare hands for the past 33 years, and during this period, I had seen him defusing hundreds of bombs, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and car bombs without any fear, and I myself accompanied him on many occasions,” he said.

“I and my brothers will carry forward our father’s mission of defeating and uprooting terrorism from our soil,” he added. “There is no fear; Hukam Khan has sons to complete his mission and we are ready for every sacrifice.”

“As a human being, father and policeman, Hukam Khan was the most loving and dedicated person I ever came across,” he concluded.

A top award for sacrifice

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik September 29 announced that Hukam Khan posthumously received the Sitara-i-Shujjat.

“We are proud of Hukam Khan for sacrificing his life,” Rehman Malik said. “For the sake of the country, the government will recruit one of his sons in the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency).”

“The men of honour like Hukam Khan have saved the lives of hundreds of people,” Hoti, enumerating Khan’s sacrifices, said. “There are many terror incidents that haven’t come to the limelight as brave soldiers like Hukam Khan (stopped them from happening).”

“There is no doubt, Hukam Khan was the backbone of the (BDS) and he had always volunteered himself for some impossible missions,” Additional Inspector General of Police and KP BDS chief Sahfqat Malik told Central Asia Online.

“Hukam Khan had the courage like a lion; that’s why he was always ahead of others and had defused hundreds of IEDs,” Shafqat Malik said.

“The (BDS) has been extended to all the 25 KP districts and has experienced and capable staff like Hukam Khan; the BDS operations in Tank, Dera Ismail Khan and Swat are a witness to the force’s capability in fighting the war on bombs,” he added.

Recalling the Frontier Road incident, he said, “This area had been hot for the last few months, and we have defused almost 12 IEDs there in the past few weeks ... so the morale of the force is high.”

On that day, Hukam Khan defused one bomb and was killed by another.

The BDS showed its esprit de corps after Hukam Khan’s death by defusing four more bombs while his body lay a few yards away, Shafqat Malik said.

The province recently acquired robots that can help with disposing bombs. Asked why the bomb disposal unit wasn’t yet using the robots to defuse every bomb, he said the robots are hard to operate in congested areas. However, the squad uses all available resources, he said.

More than 1,000 bombs defused in 2012

“In Peshawar alone, over 250 IEDs have been defused so far this year, while the figure is well over 1,000 in the entire KP, so one can judge the severity of the situation and the changing militants’ tactics,” Shafqat Malik said. “It’s more of our capable and courageous soldiers like Hukam Khan who had made these counter-terrorism operations possible.”

The militants apparently intended to inflict casualties on the BDS, he said, explaining that they planted multiple bombs. The one that killed Hukam Khan was controlled by remote, he said.

The militants laid the trap to avenge the fact that the BDS had successfully thwarted previous attacks, Shafqat Malik said.

“Hukam Khan was really an expert in explosives and was a guide to juniors like me,” said BDS colleague Zarshaid Khan. “I learned a lot from him and neutralised hundreds of bombs in his supervision.”

He truly was a master at identifying and neutralising booby traps, Zarshaid said.

Hukam Khan, a native of Pasani village, Matani, on the outskirts of Peshawar, joined the police in 1978 and served on the BDS for 20 years. He was among the pioneers who served under Maj. Ghulam Hussain, who set up the BDS after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 led to militancy problems in the tribal areas and KP, then known as the North West Frontier Province.

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