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Since the war against terrorism began nearly 2000 members of the police force, from senior officials down to constables, have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Although for a while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has officially been marking August 4, the day in 2010 Frontier Constabulary Commandant AIG police Safwat Ghayur was killed along with two others in a suicide bombing near his office, for the first time this year the National Police Bureau and the Ministry of Interior formally declared August 4 as the 'Youm-e-Shuhada-e-Police." Special events were held all across the country and befitting tribute paid to the martyrs. In a solidarity gesture, Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa also saluted the "Shuhadas of Police and their brave families from Pak forces," saying "our sacrifices shall not go waste."

Important as it is to recognize sacrifices of these brave men with special observances, it is equally important to address various issues confronting those serving in the first line of defence in the war against terrorism. Trained for peacetime policing, they are an easy target for the militants. As a symbol of the State, they have been repeatedly attacked in public places, training academies, detention centres, and intelligence facilities. Yet little has been done to enhance their capabilities to take on well-trained and better equipped terrorists. The Centre and the provinces were supposed to create quick response squads to deal with emergency situations, but so far only Punjab has managed to raise such a force.

The police are underpaid too. Those who put their lives in the harm's way so others can live do not have the assurance that their families will be properly looked after if they are gone. In one case last month, for instance, the widow of a martyr complained that the family had been ordered out of the official residence after five years of losing its bread winner, and that with a meagre pension those left behind could ill afford to rent a new place. Even the prescribed welfare packages are not properly delivered. Speaking at the recent launch of an internet-based "Welfare Eye" to help families of slain men receive the packages, a Punjab Police official acknowledged that the families faced a lot of trouble going from one office to another just to apprise the authorities of their problems. These issues, he claimed, are now to be resolved through a single click. While the effort needs to be appreciated, it exemplifies how those in other provinces suffering the loss of a near and dear one are also left worrying about making ends meet. These issues ought to be properly addressed. All concerned must do all that is necessary to ensure heirs of the police martyrs are enabled to lead decent lives.

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