The incident is a reflection of the country as a whole
The one thing we have learned really well in the past decade is to find entertainment for ourselves. Clowns, buffoons and tomfoolery on TV every evening provide the guffaws and the horrendous acts of terror provide grief and tears. Not an excitement free moment for us folks. But never before has there been endless suspense, amusement and dismay as witnessed by the ludicrous spectacle starring one Mr Sikander, with the Islamabad police playing the bit role. Until the Lone Avenger came and broke up the party!
If I’d had an inkling of the drama to come on Thursday evening, I wouldn’t have spent all that money picking up DVDs for the weekend. As it happens I haven’t even seen one, so absorbing has been the gunfight at the Jinnah Avenue show. I’ve been laughing really loudly about this drama. Actually at one point I even thought I was being cruel and then had to hide behind what a bright young friend of mine said earlier that afternoon about, “Laughing with compassion” but that was in response to the physical discomfort of another friend.
Laughing, yes, at the ridiculous circus playing out before us. And compassion, yes, for the mindless roles pitifully enacted by the inept responsible for resolving the crisis. There was this guy kind of strutting around, shooting off a couple rounds harmlessly aka threateningly in the air, taking a ciggy break, lolling in the passenger seat, sitting with legs up in the air. His kids totally fear-proof running around the green belt. The burqa-clad wife, wincing only momentarily when he fired shots close, scampered around telephoning and carrying out some weird instructions.
Crowds of people, with apparently nothing to do and stupidly oblivious of fear, gathered inanely and the dumbstruck law enforcing agencies armed to the teeth, created a paralysed cordon allowing this playhouse to continue for over five hours. The electronic media had a heyday broadcasting every second “Live”; each one calling it their “Exclusive”. This one guy had done what Qadri needed half-a-million people and millions of dollars to do – shut down the country.
Well, Zamurd Khan, like millions of others, decided he’d had enough, except he jumped into his car and arrived at the scene. Putting the versions aside for a minute lets relate it as we saw it. Zamurd approached the gun-toting Sikander, and, after greeting the children, launched an audacious lunge at him. He almost had him too. Unfortunately his highly polished leather shoes failed him and he slipped on the tarmac and fell. He bravely grabbed for Sikander’s foot as he did but the wily gunman skipped away. Drat he missed again! In the ensuing melee, police fired, something they should and could have done hours earlier. Sikander went down. The curtains descended. The Lone Avenger had provided the tethered police a way out of consummate but mysterious misery.
Whichever way you look at it, Zamurd acted with immense courage. For an unarmed man to even consider overpowering another carrying automatic weapons is normally a ‘movie’ thing. Doing it for real requires a different mindset and fierce determination. It can perhaps be considered outrageous. Actually, he is really fortunate not to have died. So Sanaullah’s sour grapes remark, “hamaqat” may not be totally off the mark but under the circumstances inappropriate. Zamurd must be saluted for his valour. He stood tall when concerned officials were missing in action. The one good that may have come from this fracas is that the PPP may have inadvertently found the face that could become the rallying force in the Punjab. If I were Zardari, I’d appoint him president for the Punjab post haste. Boy would he draw crowds.
In the normal course, in any civilised country, a man wielding and firing a dangerous weapon publicly would have been brought down instantly. He had no human shield protecting him. The wife and kids romped away from him many times. A sniper could have debilitated him at any time. They are trained to take out a human hair if required. However, given certain recent steps taken by the judiciary in respect of police action one must feel some compassion and allow some leeway to the police.
These decisions have had a double-edged effect. While perhaps addressing police brutality to some extent they have rendered the LEAs ineffective to a large extent. The fear of humiliation and punishment thus emboldening lawbreakers makes it very difficult for security forces to take spontaneous action as required, certainly in this case. Yet it is their job to take difficult decisions in public interest, and it is government’s job to protect them from consequences that come later.
On that day the performance of the Islamabad police was poor and pathetic. Nisar’s mumbled apology at the behest of an angry PM is not sufficient. The police need to be gifted bangles. The fact that Sikander roamed through Islamabad’s allegedly “tight” security barricades freely with weapons signals the breakdown of the security apparatus. This is a reflection of the country as a whole. Lack of discipline is rampant in the country across the board. Jailbreaks, dangerous prisoners escaping in the court’s premises, inability to solve crimes, poor prosecution and pathetic implementation of rules governing order has led to a massive increase in unsolved crimes.
The mention of ‘mysterious’ earlier was directed at the lack of resolve by the police to end this saga. Talk of the vehicle being possibly laden with explosives are just excuses. The driver of the rented vehicle was already talking to the police after being forced out by Sikander. He would have known of the weapons and if the car was booby-trapped. Secondly, Sikander had no active human shields. So what stopped the police from disabling him, even using a dart gun from the zoo to ‘knock’ him out? Will we get answers?
After yet another dismal performance, coming on the heels of many such “brilliant” performances in defence of important targets both civil and military, no way can one blame the Americans for not entrusting Pakistani forces to take down Bin Laden. Imagine what a cock-up that could have become. OBL would have conveniently escaped during the siege and it would have been claimed he was never there! How often do we read and hear, “two terrorists were shot dead and other accomplices fled the scene”?
Nisar confessed that the police do not possess essential equipment required to handle these situations. We’ve been under terror attacks for more than a decade so one is justified in being appalled. I am at a loss as to where to begin. Assistance to control this very menace has poured into the country making it inconceivable that elementary equipment such as stun guns and night vision equipment is not available. Around us are legislators who during this period have gone from obscurity to driving Bentleys and moved into mansions.
While the police look ragged and unkempt, certainly not giving one the feeling of being able to protect anyone, the terrorists go from strength to strength. Attacks are bolder and more daring. Modern communication equipment, guerrilla training, commitment to extremism, callousness towards human life gives them an edge. Pakistan’s security forces seem to be stuck in a time warp. One is nonplussed as to the lack of preparation witnessed each time there is a security breach. We cut a pathetic figure.
It’s stating the obvious when one says it’s time to do something. It’s been that time since the beginnings of Pakistan but far more so in recent years. Realisation must dawn that a building is only as strong as its foundations. We live in an earthquake zone, in more ways than one, so to build mud walls and then erect a monster edifice on top is waiting for all hell to break loose. When you see it totter in mild winds you may find it funny and laugh but deep within there is no way you won’t feel compassion for the endangered souls of your very own country, being bled by the status quo.
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