Tahir Malik: VIP culture destroying lives, again
Tahir Malik, 23, was a BCom graduate and was planning to study further and join a lucrative job perspective in Dubai. He was shot dead by the private security guard of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son, Abdul Qadir Gilani, while Qadir was on his way to distribute sacrificial meat.
The story is not news anymore in Pakistan. We have been insulated by insensitivity and have started taking such killings as mere statistics. We have all been victims of bigwig security protocols and the process of harassment occurs at many levels.
We are harassed on a daily basis. The first level is psychological, when a caravan of big scary cars passes by at an unimaginable speed and the guards hanging out, with heavy weapons in their hands, usher everyone aside with peculiar disdain and spite. There is always anger in their eyes, a signal of sorts saying “do not dare interrupt or we will shoot you”.
The unsaid communication is enough to keep ordinary citizens aside and clear the way as these so called VIPs have always something important, something urgent to get to.
The second level of harassment is the waste of our precious time and the unfair assumption that their time is far more important than ours.
The third, and physically fatal, level is when people die while waiting for the VIP caravan movement to end. The obvious, unnecessary obstruction in flood relief activities due to VIP protocols is a recent example.
Dr Samreen is a resident in Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital’s psychiatry department. I took her opinion on this issue.
“On an individual level, it causes anger, hopelessness, devalued self, distrust on the ‘system’, constant fear and anxiety about whether it can happen to us or not. And if all this can’t be expressed or solved, it leads to ‘learned helplessness’, a belief that no matter what one does, nothing can change it, so let it be and that’s when nations don’t progress.”
The horrid fate of Tahir embodies our collective fears as Pakistanis. We all have heaved a sigh of relief on countless occasions when we did not dare overtake a VIP’s entourage or did not respond to the guards’ snide to save our lives. We learnt the lesson that we would meet a similar fate if we dared to cross their path again, making sure to lower our eyes.
I drop my children to a renowned private school every day and face these obnoxious protocol situations on a daily basis. There is always that one child who’s accompanied by two protocol elite commandos (I suppose that was the purpose of forming our elite forces), along with green number plate cars and blue police mobiles. The kid’s caravan has “stay away” written all over it and obviously the right of way always belongs to them.
This protocol culture is imbibed in our society as our children don’t even question why these people are privileged. But I have learnt that we must not teach our children to question, as we don’t want them to face Tahir’s fate.
Tahir’s case is crucial to understand the fabric of fear intertwined in our society. The Gilani family defended it by saying that since one of their sons had already been abducted and are currently receiving many threats, Tahir’s disregard for space made them suspicious of the boy.
If we go by this paranoia logic, then we will endow every VIP (since all of them are under threat or so they say) to shoot anyone on road. It’s a society mired with fears and the responsibility of protection is always personal (as the police always shrug off responsibility by blaming lack of resources and encourage hiring private guards).
The guard who shot the innocent young man said that he was “irritated” by the boy and wanted to aim for his foot. This clearly says a lot about the psychological plight of private guards and their lack of training. Even when we consider past events, we have witnessed several personal security guards’ rampages due to psychological issues. This is despicable, to say the least.
Another deplorable factor is the media treatment.
Recently, during a current affairs show, former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Fawad Chaudhry dropped his garb of social revolution – which he had been wearing during these “revolution” days – and went on to defend the killing. According to him, the mental plight of the Gilani family justifies this killing, which he supported with several legal arguments.
Millions of Pakistanis, mostly young men, use motorcycles as a form of transport. Would we give these private security guards the authority to shoot any of them on a whim?
Could you even fathom the mental plight of these people now, when they’ll be crossing VIP caravans? Can they no longer wear jackets or put a hand in their pocket to take out their mobile phones while being around a caravan?
Will these socially privileged decide our way of movement?
This tragic incident symbolises malice in our society and we must find a way out before it’s too late.