Mar 5, 2009

Lapses in security

LIVING in a state of denial is fast becoming a Pakistani speciality. At least one senior police officer in Punjab and a federal minister insist there was no security lapse and that the police did all they could when the Sri Lankan cricket team came under attack. It is said that police officers died trying to save the Sri Lankans, who in the end escaped with injuries that were not life-threatening. This, it is claimed with an astonishing ignorance of the larger picture, is proof enough that there was no security lapse in Lahore on Tuesday morning. The policemen who laid down their lives did indeed do all they could under the circumstances. But the point is this: the circumstances should have been different. If security had been foolproof, there would been have no attackers and no casualties.
For months the Pakistan Cricket Board has claimed that visiting teams would be given the kind of security cover reserved for heads of state. This was clearly not the case in Lahore. The convoy should have been more heavily fortified and policemen posted every 50 yards or so all along the route, and that too from early morning. In that scenario, the assailants who so easily took up positions in the area would have either had to take on the policemen on duty, which would have alerted the teams while they were still at their hotel, or done nothing at all. The local superintendent of police in charge of VVIP security has apparently taken the plea that he was new to the job and did not know what measures to take. If true, this is a shameful stance to take.
At the same time there are conflicting reports about key errors in choosing a route to the stadium. The Gulberg police station is located a couple of minutes’ walk from where the assault took place, yet its personnel reached the scene after the assailants had fled. And all this when security agencies had informed the Punjab police in January about a possible attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. After the ambush, the Punjab governor told all and sundry that the Sri Lankans would be ferried out by helicopter. This, clearly, was not the brainiest thing to do from a security point of view. Bringing the attackers to book must be the priority right now but the obvious security lapses should be investigated down to the last detail.

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