Sunday, May 10, 2009

Juvenile Paranoid Security

Juvenile Paranoid Security

Majyd Aziz
February 11, 2005

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is a quaint saying that has assumed a profound significance in Pakistan, more so since the advent of the guided democratic process. Direct intensive suicidal attacks on the President and the Prime Minister have set in motion a three-pronged strategy to strengthen the security apparatus in the country. A concentrated display of personnel is visible, especially in Karachi, and beefed up whenever the high and mighty honor Karachiites with their presence. Then there are personnel from the law enforcing agencies who monitor the security procedures in their own defined way. Additionally, a well-entrenched system of information collection and target observation attempts to counter any fanatical adventure.

This strategy has been put to test both in mock exercises and in actuality to measure the objectives of maintaining area security and protecting VVIPs. There have obviously been efforts to upgrade the different approaches envisaged in the security strategy and must have been accepted and approved by the authorities involved in overseeing the security structure.

However, what the citizens actually see and how this strategy is affecting their daily lives has created the impression that there is something fundamentally wrong in it. A VVIP movement triggers a host of letters to editors from irate citizens carping about the difficulties they faced due to this security scenario. Newspapers highlight the issue and prominently publish poignant remarks of randomly selected citizens. Children miss schools, businessmen their appointments, and the sick cannot reach the hospitals. The long waits on the roads is due to the “ever-efficient” traffic controllers who stop traffic long before the leaders pass thru at high speed.

The main ingredient that is distinctly evident in citizens’ complaints is the loutish and distasteful behavior of a majority of the lower cadre involved in security activities. Their demeaning attitude of generally using brawn rather than brain has aggravated the situation and the citizens get peeved because they exhibit a mentality that was the hallmark of native soldiers during the British Raj. It is surely to the credit of Karachi’s denizens who have borne this ignominy patiently since General Zia’s regime. He had FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s type of paranoia of seeing a Red under every bed. Zia and his minions probably had this wild notion that everyone in Karachi and his uncle were out to chuck him off the hemisphere. He was fighting a desperate battle of evading the ordained final hour. Today’s underlings still subscribe to this obsessed mindset.

The formidable improvement in the national economy, the fabulous image building of Pakistan undertaken by President Pervez Musharraf, and lately by Premier Shaukat Aziz, in international arenas, and the obvious improvement in law and order, have all been instrumental in attracting global investors and buyers to make a dedicated stopover here. Expo 2005, a mega event conjured up by the Export Promotion Bureau, was the piéce de résistance. The foreigners did come in droves, something unimaginable in the past. They enjoyed the show, they expressed interest in the products, but they went back with negative perceptions about the security infrastructure. The ordeal of the security rigmarole was as if each was here just to obey orders of Al-Qaeda to wreak havoc in the metropolis.

The foreign delegates who attend the various exhibitions are invited to gala dinners hosted at the Sindh Governor’s House. Every invitee goes thru a rigorous checking, counter-checking, and re-checking process before entering its hallowed portals. The invitation card is scrutinized and correspondingly matched with the NIC/Passport. Cell phones are barred, but if one brings it then it is taken away and exchanged for a PIA tag asking the owner to collect it later. The guests expect to meet and shake the hands of the Chief Guest. Alas, after an endless wait, they see a ring of security and the big boys around him. The message is loud and clear to the foreign invitees that something is definitely wrong and the bravado that is spurted by those who motivate foreigners to do business here is but a facade.

Oh yes, the high and mighty aren’t the only ones enjoying the status of high visibility security. The plethora of Ministers and Advisors, the Police hierarchy, many elected public representatives, and whosoever can garner influence, all are darting from here to there followed by security personnel, hangers-on, and sycophants. Of course, all of them embedded with security paranoia.

Security is imperative. The country must protect the decision makers, the ruling clique, and the esteemed leadership. There is no denying of this fact. However, security is a science that requires experts in psychology, in counter-terrorism, and in motivation. Strategies are conceptualized and initiated. Unfortunately, the personnel implementing these on the streets, those who have to interact with the citizens are brazenly insensitive, unintelligent, and have nothing but contempt for their fellow human beings. The outcome is juvenile paranoid security. And, it sure ain’t getting matured or pragmatic.

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