ISLAMABAD: A majority of top politicians do not trust state agencies for their security and rely on personal arrangements, officials in political parties said a day after Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by an elite police commando.
Those who prefer their loyalists for security arrangements include President Asif Ali Zardari, former premier Nawaz Sharif and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Pakistan Muslim League-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Awami National Party (ANP) president Asfandyar Wali Khan also have their personal guards, although personnel of state agencies are at their disposal too.
Officials said an entrenched mistrust in the political leadership is behind the practice of preferring party affiliates over state security.
“If there were any doubts, they must have been removed after the way Taseer was gunned down by his own security guard,” an official in the PPP said.
At least three state agencies — the military, police and Intelligence Bureau (IB) — take care of presidential security. A chief security officer from the military and three from the police are responsible for the president’s security at his official residence and during visits to other places. The official added that Zardari’s personal guards are at the forefront of both intelligence and security arrangements at the presidency and during trips to other areas, especially when he addresses public rallies.
The PPP formed a force to protect former slain premier Benazir Bhutto when she returned to Pakistan in October 2007 after almost a decade of self-imposed exile. A number of party members were killed during a failed and a successful bid on her life. The remaining are now on duty again with the president and some other stalwarts of the ruling party.
“Call it mistrust, call it watchfulness, a small group of personal loyalists lead Mian Sahib’s security detail wherever he goes,” an official from Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said.
A long term affiliate Abdul Shakoor leads Nawaz’s personal security entourage. “Under him (Shakoor) personal guards remain alert whether Mian Sahib is at his residence in Raiwind or visits other cities. Even during air travel, the squad accompanies him,” the official added on condition of anonymity.
An associate of the Sharif family said Nawaz keeps changing officials of police and other law enforcement agencies deployed for his security, but his personal guards are the same since he returned to Pakistan after his 10-year exile in 2007.
Several other national and nationalist leaders from Balochistan to Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa have their personal arrangements for security that indicates their mistrust of state protocol. More than 180 million Pakistanis, however, do not seem to have any other option—state security is not good enough to protect them and they cannot afford anything else.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2011.
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