Adding guards to your entourage won’t end terrorism

Published: January 23, 2011

Officials should be protected, but not at the expense of the citizen.

News that President Zardari may be getting foreign guards for his private security sent my cranial wheels turning. Despite Farhatullah Babar’s vehement denial of the report, I will not be surprised if there is a germ of truth in this statement, given security concerns after the late Punjab governor’s assassination. Government officials often come under heavy criticism for the excessive use of security personnel – is Zardari hoping to top that list?

As a citizen witnessing the gravity of the security situation in my country, I can understand why officials need to be protected. As citizens, we want our government officials to be safe so they can perform their respective duties to the best of their abilities. But should this be done at the cost of our security? Against the backdrop of the daily violence and escalating death toll in Karachi (just one example), it infuriates me to see Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza’s entourage hold up traffic at the Khayaban-e-Shaheen signal, or to hear that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s protocol stalled traffic for so long that a man claimed his infant died as the result of not receiving timely medical treatment at the Children’s Hospital in Lahore.

Besides the anger at having to be inconvenienced, at a time where the economic burden is like a menacing avalanche, it is not fair that taxpayers’ money goes into additional CCTV cameras for their offices/homes, walkie-talkies and too many security guards’ salaries. According to a report in this paper, the Punjab government has spent Rs373 million since December 2007 on security upgrades for VIPs; to me, this is money unwisely spent.

If Zardari’s plans to have foreign security guards do materialise, the message that he will send to the international community is that there is a growing trust deficit between him and his people. For a country recovering from a natural disaster while simultaneously fighting extremism, this image can be a deathblow.

At the end, I would like to add that instead of spending millions on VIP security upgrades, it would be smarter to uproot the problem by addressing it at a basic level. Punish terrorists, cut their financial bloodlines and improve investigation procedures. Adding guards to your entourage will not end terrorism; it may, however, severely agitate civilians who have no one to defend them.


Atika Rehman

Editor of the Life & Style pages of The Express Tribune and an LLB graduate from the University of London.

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