Though terrorists have bombed buses carrying government employees in Peshawar three times during the last four years, there is no standard operating procedure in place for the security of such commuters.
Such bombings in 2012, 2013 and 2016 claimed more than 50 lives.
Senior government officials told Dawn that the low-grade government employees working in Peshawar had arranged private buses to commute between their offices and houses away from the capital city, but there existed no SOP for the purpose.
An official said drivers used to park such ‘unregulated’ buses near the home department’s building but they’re stopped from doing so few years ago when the law and order situation began to deteriorate in the city.
Official says no SOP exists for security of such commuters
He said the private vehicles hired by government employees could also be seen parked near the buildings of the Peshawar Press Club and PDA Headquarters in Hayatabad.
The official said as buses were hired privately, there were no arrangements for the security of their users.
An official of the administration department also said there’re no security checks in place for the security of such commuters.
Several government employees using private buses to commute between houses and offices told Dawn that they opted for such vehicles as the cost of using them was reasonable.
They said they made it to the provincial capital by paying less than half of the fare charged by other public transport vehicles.
The information gathered from the government employees shows that more than 20 buses are shuttling between Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi, Nowshera and parts of Malakand.
Two buses operate between Malakand and Peshawar.
The starting point of the bombed coach was Dargai. It reached the Peshawar Development Authority building in Hayatabad via Shergarh, Sakhakot, Jalala, Tahkta Bhai, Charsadda and Motorway, while the destination of other buses is Peshawar cantonment area.
At least 10 buses run from various parts of Charsadda to Peshawar, six from Swabi, four from Mardan and two from Nowshera.
A commuter, who wished not to be named, said using this mean of transport was their compulsion as they could not afford to travel in public transport.
He said a taxi took a passenger from the city to Hayatabad for over Rs200 but he paid just Rs80 for a ride in the ‘special’ private bus from Dargai to Hayatabad.
The commuter said a private transport vehicle charged commuters Rs140 from Dargai to Peshawar.
He said those traveling between Nowshera and Peshawar paid just Rs60 for riding such buses.
The local police said they had an SOP for the security of bus stations in the city.
A police official said station house officers visited such places on weekly basis to check security measures, while ASPs or DSPs went there on monthly basis. He said apparently, the private buses used by government employees made a ‘grey area’ under the current security situation.
When contacted, SP Cantonment Circle Kashif Zulfiqar said the security of such buses was an issue as their arrangement was not regulated.
He said besides those from the starting point, the buses picked up the people on the way to their destinations and that such commuters carried luggage with them.
The SP said such buses didn’t use proper bus stations.
He said the police had conducted ‘surveys’ of those vehicles in the provincial capital and that some of them were parked in the open near the PDA headquarters in Hayatabad.
Mr. Kashif Zulfiqar said it was beyond the police’s capacity to provide security to everyone.
“For the parking of such buses, there must a designated space with proper security and walkthrough gates,” he said.
The SP said private buses bound for government offices were a cheap means of transportation and therefore, most government employees used them.
In the past, two bomb blasts have taken place on such Charsadda-bound buses in Gulbela locality falling in the limits of the Duadzai police station on the city’s Charsadda Road.
In the first attack, which took place on June 8, 2012, a bomb ripped through a bus carrying government employees. Around 20 of commuters were killed in the blast.
The second blast in the government employees’ bus also took place in the Gulbela locality. In the Sept 27, 2013, bombing, around 19 people were killed and more than 40 suffered injuries.