I am in the habit of listening to the gruelling sound of the BlackBerry alarm everyday at 7:15 am. Inadvertently, you get in the habit of waking up at that time whether the alarm sets off or not. I was half awake, when a powerful sound shook me up, as well as the windows in my room. In a minute, there were a hundred stories — a transformer blast, a mobile tower fallen from atop a building, so on and so forth. In less than five minutes, the mystery was resolved thanks to the efficient media. It was an attack at the SSP’s house, next to the Darakshan police station, neighbouring a number of private schools. Living hardly a kilometre away from the site of the bomb, it is the closest experience, I have had to such an incident.
This attack asks a number of questions. First of all, what level of security checks are in place at the exit and entry points of Karachi? I believe the authorities will not be able to answer this question because if you have entered Karachi by road, you would know that there are hardly any measures taken to ensure that the vehicles are properly scanned for explosives, arms, ammunition or other illegal materials. If there is a proper checking mechanism on the exit and entry points of the city, it will be very difficult for anyone to bring hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives in Karachi, unless of course, there is internal involvement, which also cannot be ruled out.
Secondly, how does the security mechanism work inside the city? We only see poor people on bikes and cars being stopped and harassed by the police. Lately, while coming back from a friend’s house, I was stopped on Khayaban-e-Ittehad in Defence (not far from the site of the blast) and the police just needed a reason to harass us. My friend said, “You should get a Prado for yourself now, no one would have the courage to stop you”. And this is true. No one stops a four-wheeler, as they are largely being used by the authorities themselves or the rich and the powerful. This biasness allows for loopholes within the security process. This means the terrorists can employ big and fancy vehicles which will never be stopped for checking and anyone can use such a vehicle for terrorist attacks.
Lastly, what level of intelligence do we have and what is the actual number of crackdowns in a city plagued by bomb blasts, targeted killing of individuals and street crime? How many times do we hear of a successful crackdown where the authorities end up recovering a large number of explosives or ammunition? Unless the intelligence is provided by the agencies to the police and other law-enforcement agencies, the whereabouts of these terrorists will never be discovered and the sprawling metropolis that Karachi is will continue to harbour terrorists.
The police force is feeble because the government hasn’t invested in their training and development. We have a large defence budget; we should also have a considerable budget for the police, Rangers and Frontier Corps so they work more efficiently and take interest in their job, instead of harassing civilians for an extra buck or two.
What concrete steps has the government taken to enforce and elevate security measures in the city and to better equip these agencies? Unless we have a robust security mechanism in place, Karachiites will keep on waking up to more such blasts.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2011.
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