Liberty must trump security

Published: November 17, 2011
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Security measures are just another excuse to let those with authority ask you questions they have no business asking.

How safe is safe enough?

As terrorist attacks have hit nearly every major city in the country over the last four years, this is a question that almost nobody has asked. We now accept random police checkpoints, and intrusive security measures at places that were once significantly more open. A small price to pay for security, some might argue, but I only have one question: for how long?

Exactly when will it be safe enough to take them all down? When there are zero bomb attacks in the country? We have had several months of those. A whole year, maybe? What about kidnappings and gun attacks? What exactly is considered safe enough? And are any of us really naive enough to think that any of these measures serve as a deterrent to terrorists?

For those of you that are, allow me to disabuse you of those silly notions. The army’s sprawling headquarters in Rawalpindi is easily the most secure location in the entire country. It doesn’t matter even if you are a lieutenant general: if you do not have a pass to enter GHQ, you are not getting in. The city it is located in is absolutely teeming with serving and retired soldiers. There are several checkpoints to get even close to the place. Forget barbed wires: there are watchtowers with some of the best trained snipers in the country guarding it. And did I mention that nearly every person working there is a soldier trained in a variety of combat techniques and that several of them are armed?

Yet on October 10, 2009, not only were militants able to get inside, but the operation to dislodge them lasted for nearly a whole day. If GHQ, with all of that highly sophisticated security apparatus guarding it can be attacked in broad daylight, what makes the rest of us think that those metal detectors that we go through will make any difference?

The truth is that security measures are just another excuse to let the government – or those with authority – ask you questions they would otherwise have no business asking. I personally believe that whenever faced with a trade-off between liberty and security, liberty must always trump security.

farooq.tirmizi

Farooq Tirmizi

The author is an investment analyst. He tweets as @FarooqTirmizi (twitter.com/FarooqTirmizi)

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

  • kemal

    Yup lets get rid of the check posts, the frisking, the metal detectors etc. so that when a lovely chap wearing capris and a nifty jacket blows himself right next to me, they can write on my tombstone : Give me liberty or give me death – thaaaaaa….!!!Recommend

  • Ibrahim

    I could not agree more. There comes a point when security turns into paranoia. We are checked at every point outside our homes, indoors and out. I cannot even stand in one place on the street for too long before some security guard asks me to move. The big question is: is all this ‘security’ actually even doing that much to secure us? If this was the way to grant the people security, Pakistan would have been a very secure country today.
    “Those who give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either freedom or security.” -Benjamin Franklin Recommend

  • Ibrahim

    I could not agree more. There comes a point when security turns into paranoia. We are checked at every point outside our homes, indoors and out. I cannot even stand in one place on the street for too long before some security guard asks me to move. The big question is: is all this ‘security’ actually even doing that much to secure us? If this was the way to grant the people security, Pakistan would have been a very secure country today.
    “Those who give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either freedom or security.” -Benjamin Franklin Recommend

  • http://www.salmanzq.com Salman Qureshi

    Some good points raised. On my last visit to Pakistan, I felt so weird seeing the amount of security all around. While some places may need it, so much of it made me feel the place has taken on an atmosphere of intense fear. Not a very welcoming place…Recommend

  • Ali Noor

    @farooq: you mention oct 10 2009 and how easily the militants were able to get into GHQ but what you dont mention is that the militants who attacked the GHQ where as highly trained or even more so, then the officers guarding it ( they did not just willy nilly get in ). They had inside help, they would have probably practiced for this operation months in advance. The sooner we peope realize we are in a state of war, the better. Recommend

  • Ali

    You have a point.Recommend

  • Parvez

    This notion of liberty over security and the way you have portrayed it, looks like a mismatch to me. What is the use of liberty if your environment is insecure ? Security does not come from checks and barriers they are just deterrents. It comes from sound policies, an equitable law and justice system and an effective intelligence organisation.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    @Parvez:

    Something you just cannot simplify. This is one of those cases.

    Security is important, so is liberty. You cannot make such flat statements as to one is more important than the other.

    Liberty without security is useless. Security without Liberty is,well, what the hell is the use if it completely crushes it? What difference will there be between a man and a caged bird?Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Anoop: Completely agree with you. I thought I said something like that in my comment.Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    It is imperative that the liberty of the citizens is not sacrificed on the basis of security. Exactly this has been happening in Pakistan.Recommend