Saturday, August 17, 2013


Zamarud Khan tries to pin Sikander to the ground. PHOTO: FILE/ EXPRESS
It was downhill from the start. The weak security that enabled Sikandar, a man armed to the teeth to gain entry into the most sensitive area in the country, the Red Zone in Islamabad. They allowed him and his family to hang around for hours in a bizarre stand-off with the entire police and security of the area. 
Casually smoking cigarettes and firing occasional shots into the air, Sikandar sauntered around easily, while his black clad wife trotted between her husband and the authorities delivering messages from one to the other. Meantime those in charge of security just stood there.
There are several things one could comment on here; the inability of the local security personnel to disperse the civilian gawkers surrounding the scene, the numerous missed opportunities of removing the threat when the armed man was sauntering around on his own, and could have picked off using rubber bullets, or by drugging the water that was provided for him and his family to drink. Eventually it took the intervention of one Mr Zamurd Khan to bring the standoff to an end.
Exactly who is Mr Zamurd Khan?
Like you and me, Mr Khan is a civilian. He is a lawyer by profession and has been a member of Parliament in the past. He is neither a member of any security agency, nor a specialist in the field of anti terrorism, combat, or even a psychologist.
While watching events unfold on television at home that day, Mr Khan was horrified (like you and me) and felt he had to do something about the situation. So he upped and arrived at the scene (potentially like you and me) and asked to be allowed to speak to the terrorist, and incredibly, amazingly, was allowed to do so.
In a script written for Inspector Clouseau, Mr Zamurd Khan walked on centre stage, passed his hand paternally on Sikandar’s wife’s head, shook hands with his children and then leapt onto that heavily armed man, slipped and fell, and lunged for his legs. Sikandar jumped backwards when Mr Khan suddenly collapsed on him, fell down himself, fired his guns, was fired at, and was eventually and mercifully captured.
Pakistan has an unlikely rogue’s gallery and an even more amazing gallery of heroes. The latest inductee appears to be Mr Zamurd Khan, who when interviewed after the event said that his ‘ghairat’ appealed to him and did not allow him to sit back and do nothing in the situation.
Pakistan’s ghairat brigade has to be its most beghairat component. It uses honour or ghairatto commit the most blasphemous acts. Maybe it was a similarly flawed concept of ghairatthat prompted politicians to interfere in the job of the security agencies, something they apparently do quite regularly.
I suspect that the SSP Operations, Dr Rizwan, is actually the man to be commended because he was doing the best he was allowed to in the circumstances when he stood there, determinedly calm, trying to persuade Sikandar to lay down his arms.
If Mr Khan’s ghairat prompted him to do what he did, then there are several things that I too would like to do and the precedent set by Mr Khan must allow me to do them. Please note that it is nothing but the ghairat of every militant that prompts him to circumvent the law and take it into his own hands, and bomb/shoot/kill his way towards the acceptance of his demands. No person commits such acts without some conviction however flawed, and it is only a set of rules and the law that prevents (or should prevent) individuals from taking matters into our own hands.
It was not Mr Khan’s job to do what he did and he should not have been allowed to do it, however dedicated he may be to public interest. He was lucky his actions did not cause serious harm and it was that luck that played in his favour, not his act.
It is Pakistan’s unexpectedness, not its capabilities, that makes its enemies eye it with caution. There is no saying how Pakistan’s cricket team is likely to play or how the Pakistan Army is likely to respond to any given situation. Now, however, we have yet again another unpredictable act to add to our list; where else in the world would a civilian be allowed to intervene in police negotiations the way Mr Khan did and leave wreathed in laurels the way he did?
In my opinion, the only reason he cannot be arrested and charged for posing a potential threat to security is that he had permission from the police to do what he did. Mr Khan should at the very least be charged for placing public security in jeopardy.
It was not heroic, it was dangerous and against the law – there are no two ways about it.

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