Saudi official vs ASF: Who should apologise?

Published: June 7, 2012
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Mr Saeed’s official status, notwithstanding, he was reported to have shoved the ASF official at the security counter and called Pakistanis ‘Al-masakeen’(‘servant class’) before being taken down by other security personnel at the airport. PHOTO: ONLINE/FILE

From minute-by-minute updates on PTI’s latest political gathering to ‘live’ score cards of the FC cup, social media brings you news and at times, before it breaks.

With the millions of TV channels having spawned like bunny rabbits, each with its own version of a particular news story, its Facebook and Twitter updates that have started emerging as major opinion makers rather than the mainstream media. This symbolic transition to social media applications on smart phones and tabs provide a unique news-on-the-go and sometimes direct-from-the-horse’s-mouth experience.

And that’s exactly how I caught the ‘Saudi military official beaten up at Islamabad Airport’ news, from a Twitter update of a friend who happened to be at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport when the scuffle between Airport Security Force (ASF) and the Saudi official, reportedly an armed forces personnel, broke out.

Following the altercation, that reportedly took place amidst a heated exchange of words as the official resisted being frisked at the final security counter, mainstream and social media were awash with all sorts of slapdash analysis and hasty conclusions from the incident.

While some would rebuke the high-handedness of the ASF personnel, following the post-scuffle images of the bleeding Saudi army official, here’s some food for thought;

Nobody is above the law especially when it comes to airport security. ASF has the critical task of safeguarding the lives of all passengers, which sometimes might even require brute force but standard operating procedures apply to all. And although your embassy-issued passport does provide protocol, it should not be construed as a license to shove and jostle an armed guard.

As more news stories poured in, other versions of the incident started making headlines, one Emirates 24/7 story quoted Saudi Sabq Daily stating;

The paper said Shahri, 43, has been in Pakistan for a one-year military course and that he went to the airport to bid farewell to his 17-year-old son, Yousuf, who was returning to Riyadh.

Another contended that he was the Kingdom’s defence attache to Pakistan.

Mr Saeed’s official status, notwithstanding, he was reported to have shoved the ASF official at the security counter and called Pakistanis ‘Al-masakeen’ (‘servant class’) before being taken down by other security personnel at the airport.

Apologies from the interior ministry ensued along with assurances of an investigation at the ‘highest level’.

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from the Twitterati regarding the whole incident and its aftermath:

Nadir El Edroos ‏

@needroos

lets see how much they prostrate before their masters.

Nadeem F Paracha ‏

@NadeemfParacha

Saudi official thrashed at Isbd airport … Oil spill.

Faisal Qureshi ‏

@faisalqureshi

Ahaaaaa *clapping hands* “@Maria_Memon: Violent brawl b/w Saudi military officer and ASF officer at ISB airport.

Hafsa Khawaja ‏

@Hafsa_Khawaja

True sadly. RT @Usamaakhwaja: @Hafsa_Khawaja DG Airport Security ki hazri ho gai hay! Ofcourse we are a Saudi Colony.

Karrar Hussain ‏

@KarrarrHussain

@khalidkhan787 The end result be?The ASF officer has to render unconditional Tauba for having dared to manhandle the Saudi officer brother3h

Khalid Khan ‏

@khalidkhan787

Saudi diplomat tells media he just asked ASF to behave nicely, on which ASF got infuriated and started scuffle, ASF misbehaved with my son

Anjum Kiani

@AnjumKiani

sir airforce b ASF k hawalay kar dain shayad 1, 2 drone hi gira dain.

Anjum Kiani ‏

@AnjumKiani

We Should aim for equal terms & relations with all! & if the other side shows arrogance then we want NO relations at all! #Pakistan ASF

Mahrukh Jabeen

@mahrukhjabeen

Mahrukh we need relations & ties with all on equal basis,& its opportunites like this that we can attempt to create awareness

Note: Some comments have been deliberately omitted/edited for their PG rated content.

Having been a frequent visitor of the Benazir International Airport, like most other government departments in the federal capital, I have found the airport security staff there to be very considerate and professional. They are used to dealing with rude passengers – envoys, celebrities, government officials, men in boots etc from all sorts of backgrounds.

It seems bizarre that our authorities were so quick to issue an apology to the Saudi government for a brawl that may not have been our fault to begin with. Despite the relationship that Pakistan may have with Saudi Arabia, it should be understood that no incident, no matter who the diplomat may be, is exempt from further probe and only once a sturdy conclusion is drawn by the investigative authorities, should an appropriate statement of apology be made by the respective government.

Further investigation, as ordered by the Interior Minister is the only route that can be taken, to reveal what provoked the altercation and whether the Pakistani government or the government of Saudi Arabia owes an apology for the unfortunate incident. Any premature statements offered would be those of speculations and that is not a practice any responsible government should indulge themselves in.

Jalal.Awan

Jalal Awan

An electrical engineer working at Engro, the writer is an avid freelancer and an aspiring entrepreneur who takes keen interest in politics and current affairs. He tweets at @jalal_awan (twitter.com/jalal_awan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.