Sunday, August 18, 2013

As If Sikandar was a Hercules Unchained

August 17, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi

That mind boggling spectacle that the whole of Pakistan and the world beyond had witnessed on the Jinnah Avenue in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on August 15, can be found only in action movies and in fiction books. The five hour’s standoff between the police and para military network on one side and a lone individual on the other is absurd, intriguing and ridiculous.

 It defies any rational explanation by any stretch of imagination that a single person with a tiny short physique can prevail and defiantly kicks around for several hours in full public view. He roams about the vast space at his will brandishing two Kalashnikovs (sub machines guns) and firing at random periodically. It appeared as if the ionic warrior Hercules was chasing the defeated fleeing army. Or else he was a gladiator throwing gauntlets to his rivals in a Roman Colosseum.

 If the objective of allowing a free hand to Sikandar to catch him alive then in that case this gory dram could have dragged on for several hours till he would have dropped on the gourd overtaken by fatigue and exhaustion. The standing order of the interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to not kill him and catch him alive was like the proverbial catching of duck by placing a burning candle on its head until it would turn the bird blind with the melting wax. Is there some logic in minister’s orders to negotiate with him and not kill him? Nevertheless the government and security forces looked paralyzed and dysfunctional.

 The police, the elite forces, the paratroopers and the commandoes all were in a state of limbo over the daring frolicking of a miserable and dissipated individual keeping them at bay. Was it a rank cowardice and wishing for a providential help and miracle to happen to drive away the menace?

 If that is the poor level of crisis management of the police and intelligence agencies and even army then what would happen if a group of die hard terrorists assails the capital and wreaks havoc. And such frightening possibility cannot be ruled out. If the bomb blasts and massacres are going on elsewhere in the country and particularly in tribal zones, how come Islamabad can remain immune from such dreadful incidents?

 The police remained confused and stood by, Sikandar was unyielding and Zamurud Khan was stupid. The family of Sikandar consisting of two young children and the burqa-clad wife seemed to be caught in a weird and scary situation as one could figure out from the boy’s frightened eyes and shades of fears cast over his face. The tiny minds would not comprehend as to what was going on with their father running around in the arena and firing and hurling challenging epithets on the crowd gathered around him.

We have seen the snake charmers, the fake healers, the monkey dancing shows and the jugglers in cattle shows and public places amusing the crowds with their antics and tricks. Here on Jinnah Avenue, it was not different except that the magicians, the jugglers, the quacks perform for an hour or so and then move away. 

Yet this melodrama on the capital’s widest road continued for several hours while the public and the protectors of human life just watched it like dummies. They had no clue how long that thriller would continue and what would be the drop scene.

This incident is a matter of grave concern for the law and order enforcement agencies to ponder how drastically and miserably they failed to address a potentially serious threat with a matching fast track strategy and action. If it would be finally to shoot at his legs because of the physical scuffle between the daredevil Zamurud and the stubbornly defiant Sikandar, then it could have been done even in the first few minutes.

But the explanation from the authorities including the interior minister, that they did not want to hurt the offender’s’ family is as unconvincing and frivolous as it is ridiculous. The failure of an otherwise brutal police force to nab an outraged and defiant culprit posing persistent threat to the lives of the onlookers speaks volumes for the bizarre counter insurgency strategies.

 Now the paramount questions staring right in the face of police, security and intelligence agencies would be how could an ordinary person carry with him two dangerous weapons and roam about in the red zone of the capital? What was the purpose of his being armed with such prohibited bores?

Was there a sinister plot behind the smokescreen of the family to use these weapons for a crime or to be hand-over to an intended person or party? The most incisive question is how to preempt or ward off such intrusions and incursions by the terrorists and public enemies for future?

The senior hierarchy in the ministry of interior should be sternly interrogated why such glaring and most horrendous security laps occurred, all the more in the vicinity of important government offices and buildings? Did Sikandar have license for these weapons and if so who issued him these permits for patently prohibited calibers?

Chief Justice of Supreme Court, honorable Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has taken suo moto notice of this most incredible and first ever brazen single incident. The case to be heard on August 19 by a three-member bench would hopefully deliberate on the vital questions and dimensions related to this bizarre incident that could have entailed a disaster in the capital of Pakistan. 

Did Sikandar have the making of another Ajmal  Kasab? Let us not discard this question.

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