January, 2003

I really have a problem understanding this.

Why does the Chief of Army staff, while visiting a city within the friendly borders of Pakistan e.g. Karachi, Lahore etc. need such massive escorts and overwhelming security protection?

Why the rows upon rows of Traffic Cops, Rangers, Civil Police, Military Police, non uniformed personnel from over a score of intelligence agencies etc.

Why the guns, the traffic barricades, the blocked routes, the rooftop gunmen, the medium artillery, the Armored personnel carriers?

Why the switched off traffic lights, why the high speed maniacal drives through the town, why the route clearances, the pathfinders, the patrols, the recce squads, the escorts, the route liners, the lookouts, the pickets, the pillboxes, the troop carriers, the machine guns?

Why the body searches for visitors, why the sweeping of the areas with sniffer dogs, with explosive detection devices, why the cordons, the sanitization etc.

Why the meal tasters, the water drinkers, the box checkers, the suspicious package examiners, the “carry off any suspicious looking guy” bullies, the vehicle commandeering uniformed thugs, the shovers and the pushers.

Why the bullet proof glass, the special vehicles, the armored vests, the protective devices, the decoys, the deception, the camouflage?

And finally, after all this, an array of personal bodyguards, human shields and bristling guns.

All this while professing an intense love and affection for the common man who is to be kept at a great distance all the while this love is being administered!

One can understand why a political leader may need protection: he or she is an INDIVIDUAL, chosen by the people to lead them. It is basically that individual’s abilities and qualities that are required for running the country; if something was to happen to him/her, disarray may result and a political crisis may occur. Furthermore, since such individuals do not normally have their own personal protection force it is only logical that they be protected; albeit perhaps not with such voluminous and inconsiderate force!

A military leader is not such an individual. A Country governed by an organized army is a totally different proposition. Here the Chief Executive (or whatever one may wish to call him) is simply a representative of the Army and it is this organization that has decided to run the country (with the Supreme Court’s blessing)! It is NOT one individual whose capabilities are required; it is the collective ability of the Organization. In case the present incumbent passes away, the next person in the military hierarchy would automatically assume that role.

Of course, one cannot deny that there are some real and some perceived threats to any leader’s security even in our “friendly and safe” cities as broadcast by our ineffective tourism departments? But then is it not the fundamental precept of a soldier’s existence to be prepared to die for his country? The level of protection sought by the military leaders is ample proof that no one is ready to do even consider that possibility!

One is forced to visualize the threats that Senior Military Commanders would have to contend with in hostile territory. The mind boggles at the level of protection they would need if, in the admittedly unlikely event of a conflict, they decided to visit the war zone!

Have Faith in Allah but trust Dupont; the latter makes KEVLAR; the stuff bulletproof vests are made of!