Dawn Editorial: Security and Threats

This Editorial was published in Dawn on September 21, 2009

Unless there is something in particular that the security firm assisting the Americans is doing wrong, there is little sense in opposing a firm that is after all providing jobs and training to Pakistanis. The raid on the office of a Pakistani security firm providing security to the American embassy in Islamabad has raised more questions than it answers. The paperwork for the weapons seized by the police, including those requiring special permission, appears to be in order and as yet no official has explained the illegalities the security firm is suspected of committing.

A section of the media, however, appears convinced of the ‘guilt’ of the security firm and the Americans and has frenziedly reported the ‘threats’ from their activities. But it is a deeply problematic position.

First, American officials in particular face serious threats in Pakistan and they certainly need extra security. Since the possibility of marines protecting American officials has been vociferously rejected by the media and denied by the government only recently that leaves the option of private security guards. Second, private security companies operate by the dozen in Pakistan, protecting countless private citizens and properties, and every company trains its employees and provides them with weapons. So unless there is something in particular that the security firm assisting the Americans is doing wrong, there is little sense in opposing a firm that is after all providing jobs and training to Pakistanis.

It appears though that the ‘wrongs’ allegedly committed are less about legalities and technicalities and more about politics and turf wars. There is zero risk of Islamabad being overrun by ‘American’ security. This isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan, there is no occupation and, frankly, it is embarrassing to suggest that the state and national assets could be at risk from a handful of private guards.

But the leaks of ‘suspicious’ activities are sustained enough to suggest that a faction in the government or the intelligence/security apparatus is worried. Perhaps because the state has not fully worked out what is and isn’t permissible for the growing number of foreign nationals to do inside Pakistan and the tendency for the Americans to push the envelope on occasion to see how far they can go has some Pakistani officials trying to push back through the media. If that is indeed the case, then it needs to be sorted out at the earliest at the highest levels of officialdom.

We cannot afford Pakistanis regarding every white man as an American and every American as a spy or marine, for the last thing we need is to become more isolated from the world business, development and aid communities.

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