Mar 8, 2009

Lapse and collapse

As the days pass and more and more CCTV footage emerges of the Lahore attack the ineptitude of our law enforcement agencies is further exposed. CCTV cameras clearly log the time in every frame they capture; thus it is that we now know that the entire incident lasted around seven minutes, not the thirty minutes as originally recounted by assorted policemen. We now know that a police mobile passed by, in the opposite direction, a motorbike carrying three of the attackers who were visibly still armed at the time. Other footage shows police vehicles in the area, none of them engaged in the business of catching terrorists. We know, because we can see it, that the attackers were casual in their escape, they were in no desperate hurry and secure in the knowledge that nobody was likely to be getting in their way or stopping them to enquire quite what it was that they were up to. Anecdotal reports continue to multiply, many of them contradictory. One speaks of the attackers ‘looking like Pathans’ while another, from a rickshaw driver who picked some of them up, says they spoke with Punjabi accents. Perhaps it was a unit made up of both Pathans and Punjabis – entirely possible given the national recruiting patterns of extremist groups. Nobody, thus far, has told us anything of the actions of the surviving police who were guarding the Sri Lankans. These were supposed to be members of an elite unit. Did they engage the assailants? We can see that the gunmen were firing their weapons and the soundtrack indicates several weapons firing at the same time – but the fire appears to be outgoing from the attackers and so far no evidence of incoming fire directed at them has emerged. The promised report on the incident has not yet emerged either and the eternal blame-game continues much as per usual. Foreign hands ‘are not discounted’ by anybody who can get themselves in front of a microphone and to date there has not been a single arrest of any of the attacking group who all remain at large. Foreign reaction by assorted figures ranging from Chris Broad the umpire to the Sri Lankan president has been mixed. Broad has been critical of the Pakistan authorities for failing to provide adequate security, and the Sri Lankan President has been positively statesmanlike in the way he has commented on the affair and its aftermath. About the only person to emerge with his honour intact is the driver of the Sri Lankan teams’ bus. Having taken a couple of rounds through his windscreen and seen a rocket pass by he very sensibly put his foot down and got bus and passengers safely into the stadium – full marks Sir and you deserve whatever good fortune might come your way as a result of your timely actions.Not only does it appear that the security arrangements were, to say the very least, somewhat inadequate and poorly coordinated, but once the crime had been committed our law-enforcement officers went about destroying or disturbing the forensic evidence with their usual casual disregard for the preservation of fingerprints (witness the rocket-launcher displayed to the media, and no rubber gloves on the hand of the officer doing the displaying) and other physical evidence that should have been left in situ. All-in-all this is a sorry tale of mismanagement on all sides before, during, and after the incident. Government representatives and police officers were not reading off the same page, there were widely differing statements from all sides, some of them ludicrous, and the general public was once again ill-served by those tasked to protect and govern them. We are increasingly a society under surveillance, especially in the cities. CCTV coverage as well as amateur footage of the Lahore incident has made fools of those who did what they always do and presented their version of ‘reality’ only to be contradicted by a camera mounted on a pole and pointing in the right direction at the right time. It is high time that both police and politicians woke up to the new reality – you can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people some of the time but never – and especially when there is a CCTV camera around – all of the people all of the time.

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