THEY were almost through the barricaded gate of the paramilitary force’s offices and had started to relax and remove their safety gear at the end of their shift. And then, what has happened often before happened again last Wednesday, this time in Karachi’s Korangi area: an explosion of sound and force, another bomb attack with Rangers personnel as the target. Three men succumbed to their injuries on their way to hospital while a fourth died during surgery. Three were wounded. As if to underline their isolation, there were no knots of worried relatives at the hospital, none of the frenzied confusion that usually follows such attacks; hardly any of these men had family in the city. Practically, the only mourners, and well-wishers of the injured, present were other Rangers’ personnel, their friends and colleagues, standing silently in the corridors — no doubt contemplating when their own luck might run out.
If this paints a bleak and infinitely demoralising picture, it is nothing less than the truth. There’s probably hardly anyone in Pakistan who does not fear being caught up in violence of some sort at any point, but the threat is undeniably far greater to those manning the front lines: the law enforcement personnel, including the police, paramilitary forces such as the Rangers and soldiers. The top echelons of these organisations can often legitimately be faulted for insufficient strategising or coordination, or for failing to properly equip or train the men on the ground. And, it’s also true that, when seen in the context of duty alone, confronting the enemy, with all its attendant risks, is very much a part of the job description of these men. But spare a thought for the human dimension of the situation outlined above, the predicament of personnel that in many situations are sitting ducks for militants and criminals alike. Is there anything that society can do? Compassion and support is the very least that can be offered.