Need to learn from Swiss model: Growing terrorist activities requires redefining civil defense role

Karachi: Growing incidents of terrorism, particularly the bizarre Wagah border incident that claimed more than 60 lives, have required redefining the role of civil defense in Pakistan, to give basic civil defense training to citizens with main focus of deterring and coping with the aftermaths of terrorists activities.

Due to the complex nature of the terrorism threat, Pakistan can follow the Switzerland model of civil defense to ensure active participation of citizens and mobilizing them for better safety of communities. The Swiss civil security system emphasizes the primacy of localized solutions and resources following a strict interpretation of the principle of subsidiarity. Responsibility for crisis management first and foremost resides with the basic community units of cantons and communes.

Basically civil defense or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack, emergencies and disasters. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation and recovery. Programs of this sort were initially discussed at least as early as the 1920s and were implemented in some countries during the 1930s as the threat of war and aerial bombardment grew. It became widespread after the threat of nuclear weapons was realized.

Since the end of the Cold War, the focus of civil defense has largely shifted from military attack to emergencies and disasters in general. The new concept is described by a number of terms, each of which has its own specific shade of meaning, such as crisis management, emergency management, emergency preparedness, contingency planning, emergency services, and civil protection.

In some countries, civil defense is seen as a key part of “total defense”. For example in Sweden, the Swedish word totalförsvar refers to the commitment of a wide range of resources of the nation to its defense – including to civil protection.

Many countries still maintain a national Civil Defense Corps, usually having a wide brief for assisting in large scale civil emergencies such as flood, earthquake, invasion, or civil disorder.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, in the United States the concept of civil defense has been revisited under the umbrella term of homeland security and all-hazards emergency management.

Relatively small investments in preparation can speed up recovery by months or years and thereby prevent millions of deaths by hunger, cold and disease. According to human capital theory in economics, a country’s population is more valuable than all of the land, factories and other assets that it possesses. People rebuild a country after its destruction, and it is therefore important for the economic security of a country that it protect its people. According to psychology, it is important for people to feel like they are in control of their own destiny, and preparing for uncertainty via civil defense may help to achieve this.

In Switzerland civil protection is an integrated management, protection, rescue and relief system. The partner organizations are in charge of their specific tasks, and provide mutual support. Joint management ensures coordinated planning and preparation, and operational command in case of deployment. The resources of the partner organizations have a modular structure, with everyday incidents forming its basis. According to the type and severity of an incident, resources are coordinated and reinforced. The primary intervention resources (police, fire service, first aid service) deal with everyday incidents on-site according to established procedures. In the case of disasters and emergencies the partner organizations provide additional resources.

Civil Defense in modern times is very essential for a civilized society. The Civil Defense is always ready for the protection of any person, property, place or thing during any hostile attack, whether from air, land or sea. During the peace times humanity also faces other most dangerous calamities whether these are manmade or natural.

The aims of civil defense are to reduce to the minimum the number of casualties in the people; to minimize damage and dislocation to essential services; to ensure uninterrupted production in mills and factories; to provide active civilian support to war efforts and to maintain in the people a high standard of morale and a strong “will to win”

In order to make a strong civil defense structure there is an urgent need to make awareness among the students of schools, colleges and of other such   institutions with regard to existence of civil Defense and its important/unavoidable role in disaster management. As the students are the future saviors of our country.

Civil Defense is an organization of the citizens to minimize the effects of any enemy action. In clear terms it is organized to give service to victims and take action to minimize damage to human life and property from enemy bombing and land and naval attacks. It aims at restoring quick normalcy in essential services, industrial units and other walks of life, after an attack. According to Civil Defense act 1952 amended in 1996 the definition of Civil Defense is “Civil Defense includes any measures not amounting to actual combat for affording defense against any form of hostile attack by a foreign power or for depriving any form of hostile attack by a foreign power of its effects, whether such measures are taken before, during or after the time of attack. It also includes remedial measures against natural and manmade disasters in peace time”.

In Pakistan there is a Directorate General Civil Defense under the Ministry of Interior.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Interior Minister says in the wake of the new world order, the introduction of extremist and terrorist activities has also made human life vulnerable. The emergence of new phenomena has augmented the role of Civil Defense in neutralizing and mitigating the impact of all these odds. He appeals the youth to join Civil Defense to help their nation in the difficult moments.

In Pakistan there are civil defense training schools and facilities in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Quetta, Peshawar and Muzaffarabad.

In Karachi, Federal Civil Defense Training School, was established in the year 1951 and endorsed as pioneer of Civil Defense Institutions. Civil Defense Training School, Karachi, provide training facilities to the entire province of Sindh i.e. Government Departments, Autonomous Bodies, Central Government employees and as well as private candidates.

The institute conducts all the Civil Defense Courses under the directive from Directorate General Civil Defense, Islamabad. Two teams of Women Mobile Civil Protection Training’s are also working under the jurisdiction of Civil Defense Training School, Karachi. These training teams impart training to the women folk as door to door and women’s institutions i.e. Schools, Colleges, Industrial Homes, Pharmaceutical Companies. These teams also conduct Special Civil Protection and First Aid home nursing courses

Civil Defense Training School, Karachi, also provide services assistance and guidance in formulation of plans for Civil Defense measures in installations under autonomous bodies and semi Government establishment including leading industrial and commercial undertakings of the province.

There is an urgent need to redefine the civil defense role and scope in Pakistan and take serious steps to study and adopt the successful civil defense systems of the world, particularly the Switzerland model.

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