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.