RAWALPINDI, June 20: The police have asked the district administration to build a “high concrete wall” around Liaquat Bagh for foolproof security of participants of large-scale public meetings at the venue.
In a letter addressed to the district administration, City Police Officer Azhar Hameed Khokhar claimed that given its expanse, Liaquat Bagh was vulnerable to terrorist attacks and suggested that a 10-foot-high concrete boundary wall with barbed wire be constructed.
CPO Khokhar also recommended that walk-through scanning gates be installed at all entry points; floodlights be installed to illuminate the ground at night; and potable water be made available inside the venue for the public and police personnel as leaving the premises to fetch water posed a security risk. In the same missive, the police officer also highlighted sanitation issues, and asked the administration to construct washrooms and ensure timely disposal of garbage.
The huge ground has been the scene of many political rallies, and two former prime ministers of Pakistan – Liaquat Ali Khan and Benazir Bhutto – have been assassinated in shooting and gun-and-bomb attacks during and after addressing the public in the past.
Even though having a 10-foot-high concrete structure would drastically alter the landscape of Liaquat Bagh, security officials believe that the security benefits outweigh the alteration.
A senior police official, when contacted, said the proposal to build a security wall around Liaquat Bagh was still under consideration, and no decision had been taken in this regard.
Earlier, a proposal had been floated that an alternative site be allocated for holding public meetings and rallies, and Benazir Bhutto Road be made a protestation free road. But the city administration could not arrange for another venue.
Meanwhile, when an old resident of the city was asked about the plan to build a concrete security wall around the historical Liaquat Bagh, he opined: “Building a concrete wall around the venue is not the solution to the collapse of law and order, and violent protests being staged in the city.”
Another citizen told Dawn, “It would make the venue like a detention centre and even now the police have occupied a part of it.”