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Killing with kindness

On September 29, 1993 former Chief Minister of Punjab, Ghulam Haider Wyne, and close associate of Mian Nawaz Sharif, was assassinated near Mian Channu while doing the rounds of his election campaign. According to reports, his Pajero was stopped by some obstruction on a culvert, the tyres were shot out, his driver and companion were ordered out of the vehicle and then he was brutally murdered after being dragged out of the Pajero.

One may well ask, why was a police escort not available with a man of the stature of the former CM when almost all major candidates are being given police protection? If without such protection, why were private bodyguards not part of his small group when open threats not to visit the area were being aired about? And lastly when the tyres were shot out, why did the driver surrender his vehicle meekly without making an attempt at getaway? The answer to all this is that (1) there is very little concept of professional security around important persons in Pakistan (2) close friends and associates who are basically amateurs take over what is essentially a professional role without being trained for it and (3) this complacency compromises security and endangers their mentor and friend.

A person of the stature of Wyne should have been protected by person/s trained to be personal bodyguards, similarly the driver of his vehicle should have got “security driving” training. While determined killers could have probably managed to still do their dastardly act, the knowledge of trained bodyguards and drivers would have raised the ante because the guards could have responded by firing back while the driver could have attempted to make a getaway instead of freezing at the wheel when his tyres were shot out and leaving the late Mr Wyne as a sitting duck. The ease of the assassination in the manner of a public execution is a matter of shame and a slur on the name of security around public figures. It is extremely important to create a deterrent, a psychological feeling to the enemy that they should be ready to face the consequences of offensive action. By opting for a deterrence instead of making the job of the assailants easy, the target becomes a more difficult proposition. The assailants have to be more careful about their intentions and being constrained as such are liable to make more mistakes.

Wyne’s brutal assassination should teach us some lessons, some of which were learnt painfully by the US Secret Service after the benchmark of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the near misses with later Presidents. During the few crucial seconds in Dallas in 1963 except for one Secret Service Agent who managed to clamber aboard even as the Presidential vehicle was speeding away almost all other froze after the first shot. Post-Kennedy Specialised protection has become a sophisticated professional matter, it should be handled for VVIPs by a Special Protection Group. Security of important persons is a professional matter to be handled by full time professionals, at no time should amateurs be allowed to dictate matters. This is a Catch-22 situation for political leaders who have to glad hand and carry their supporters along, this makes them particularly vulnerable when they are travelling. One has to just look at the security around our VVIPs in comparison to their western counterparts to see the difference. While our security personnel are much more in abundance they are mostly busy looking adoringly at the VVIP or handling their weapons in an alarmingly nervous manner, on the other hand the trained western bodyguards are busy scanning the crowd and keeping unwanted intruders away from their focus of responsibility. We have to go for a pragmatic course adapted to our own culture where a “cocoon” of guards may even be needed to make way through large crowds.

In the run-up to the elections on October 6, both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Ms Benazir are prime targets of opportunity for anyone who is interested in spreading mayhem and anarchy throughout the country. Unfortunately, having lived under the gun and bombs of assassins for over a decade we know that terrorists are found in abundance in Pakistan. To ward off a catastrophe it is most important that the inner circle of security of our political VVIPs be taken over by professionals and that such friends who like to be seen (and photographed) with the major public personae, particularly in driving them around, be requested to dampen their personal egos out of real concern for the safety and well-being of their mentor. How apt is the D’arcy W Thompson saying, “Against a foe I can myself defend, but Heaven protect me from a blundering friend”! For their sakes, one hopes both Nawaz Sharif and Ms Benazir are listening to this, even more important one hopes that those who hold them dear will not compromise security and as such become responsible for killing them out of sheer kindness.

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