It didn’t matter if the 11 Airport Security Force (ASF) officials killed last Sunday in an attack on Jinnah International Airport were wearing bulletproof vests, their colleagues say. “The bulletproof jackets we are provided with are useless,” says one rank officer who wished to remain anonymous. “Even a needle could pass through these jackets.”
Autopsies and medical examinations performed at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre where the deceased and injured were brought confirmed the officer’s claim: a majority of the ASF victims received bullets to their upper torso. “We did not see any bulletproof jackets when the ASF victims were brought to the hospital,” one of the medico-legal officers Dr Raja Memon told The Express Tribune. “They were just wearing their ASF uniforms.”
As their colleagues receive treatment for injuries sustained in the attack, members of the ASF have voiced their frustration with the level of security provided to them. “We are assigned here to protect the airport but unfortunately, there are no arrangements for our own security or safety,” said an ASF officer. At any given time, five ASF companies, with 68 personnel each, are deputed for the Karachi airport’s operational security. “There is a limited quota for bulletproof jackets and only a few personnel are provided with the jackets,” explains a commando. “A majority of us are compelled to perform our duties while putting our lives at risk.”
“We do not have the means necessary to provide bulletproof jackets to all personnel,” the ASF spokesperson admitted. “We provide jackets to those deployed at sensitive points. Those who lost their lives in the attack were not deployed at sensitive points.” He denied that the vests were ‘substandard’, however, saying the ASF maintains the high quality of protective gear such as bulletproof jackets.
The ASF officials complain that while no measures for their security were taken before or after the attack, financial issues or staff shortages have also remained unresolved. “You can see that most of our men hitch a ride home after work because they don’t have the means to own their own transport,” said a constable. “Most of the time, we have to pull back-to-back shifts because of which we are unable to perform our duties with alertness.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2014.
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