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For your safety

September 13, 2012

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

By drawing a line on the soil, all the countries of the world call it a border and proceed to protect their boundaries from the evil eye of their neighbours by appointing protectors. The same happened to us. The armed forces who had been obtaining a salary from another party to guard their borders were now supposed to guard the boundaries of the new country which happened to be their own. Although, the new country had not been obtained as a result of their efforts and struggles, but the following circumstances proved that it was actually them who had obtained the country for us. In fact, these guardians of the borders moved on to take on the precious responsibility of protecting the ideological borders as well.

Then the national security became the first priority, consequently, it had to become the first priority in the national income and expenditure. What does it matter if there is nothing to eat for the citizens of the country, if there is no money to spend on health, education, and on economy to ensure prosperity? Security is so much more important than these. What does it matter if you are spending your days coughing away in sickness, or don’t get to eat two square meals a day, or be able to provide your child with a good education, or live out your entire life sobbing in misery – the country’s security is still of paramount importance. More and more weapons are being manufactured and then sold and bought but the people are still not getting a single meal. Perhaps bombs will be cultivated and then eaten, who knows.

The ones who instill fear in people’s hearts, and spread hatred are the same people who also distribute weapons around the world. Your security is their single most lucrative source of income. First, you were kept in fear of the external enemy. Then the guardians of the borders turned their focus towards the urban areas and divided us all into nationalities, communities, sects and ideologies. Weapons spread from house to house. Lashkars and Sipahs were created which resulted in establishing an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, compelling people to spend greater amounts of money on ensuring their safety.

The Rangers and the Frontier Corps are just some more names that indicate that these groups are responsible for protecting our national boundaries. However, nowadays they are only found in cities instead of the borders. Schools, colleges, hospitals, empty plots, government buildings that are a part of our cultural heritage now have flags flying from their roofs. Previously, whenever there have been demands made for the security forces to leave the urban areas, the city breaks out into riots and fire; bodies in gunny bags begin to turn up. So in order to maintain law and order in the city, people end up withdrawing their demands for the security forces to leave the city.

Times have really changed. At first, there were very few uniformed personnel to be found. But now, wherever you look, you will only see uniformed personnel, all kinds of uniforms imaginable, deployed to protect someone who feels threatened by someone else. After every incident, the government creates another force to maintain law and order in the country. The private security agencies’ business has become so successful that now the entire country has been secured by them. Be it a house, an office, a building or even a shop, without a security officer nothing can function.

If you have not yet employed the services of a security guard, and your property gets burgled, you will be responsible for it (the area police station is busy taking care of other matters that they cannot take up the responsibility for your safety). The very next day you will have to contact a private security agency yourself to ensure the safety of your property anyway, so it is better to contact them before you are burgled. Now the gates have a sign mentioning the name and monogram of the private security agency that secures your property instead of the house number and the name of the person who lives there. All these private security agencies are being run by the same people who were initially responsible for the maintenance of national security. At first they were obtaining a salary and now they are paying out salaries themselves and using the latest technological facilities to provide security to your homes and offices.

The roads are getting smaller. The footpaths are eliminating one by one, whereas the walls are gaining new heights everyday. Roadblocks are being set up as well. But even then, one is not satisfied and attempts are constantly being made to beef up security by stacking up sand-filled sacks. Closed-circuit television cameras, huge iron gates and barriers are being installed everywhere. Be it a bank, a shop, the chai-wallah, the tandoor-wallah and even the hotel-wallahs, everybody is monitoring you, watching you from every angle. Whether you are going to someone’s house or your office, you must first identify yourself, empty out your pockets, mobile, camera and keys. Women, whose husbands have never dared to open their handbags, now open them up so that security personnel can go through them. But somehow, you are still not safe. Robberies, plunder, thievery, kidnapping, target killings, all continue as usual.

Initially, it was just a line that was drawn between two countries to create a border. Now we have been compelled to draw borders in every street and neighbourhood. In the past, entry into each other’s house was free and open. But now, even the streets, neighbourhoods have sprouted signs and roadblocks saying “restricted entry”. Even the ones who were responsible for your security have now started closing up the streets because they have their own lives to secure. Let them secure themselves first, after all how can they make you feel safe if they themselves feel unsafe?

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

This army of ministers, judges and officers requires an ever-increasing amount of security forces. How are they supposed to provide security for you if they do not have enough for themselves? They require big containers to be kept outside their houses and offices for their protection – containers that are normally used very differently in other countries are only used to shut down road in ours. Whether some big shot arrives in the city or a procession needs to be stopped, these containers are brought out and set up all over the city at different points. Like on May 12, when the entire city was filled with such containers, blocking the way for the so-called miscreants and us the citizens. A person from any other part of the world would have easily mistaken the entire city for port area.

We read the newspapers everyday and obtain a so-called sense of satisfaction that nine people died; two from this political party, or five from that one. The other seven were killed for no reason at all, only that they happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even the media does not deem it necessary to mention them.

Otherwise, everything is as it should be, everyone is working and living together “peacefully”. There are meetings being held, decisions are being made and new laws being drafted at the Governor House. It is the age of divisions too. New divisions are being made; every neighbourhood, city, area and street is now divided into different territories. See, it is necessary to make certain sacrifices in order to maintain the peace.

However, while the question of your safety still remains, the only viable answer is that your safety is now entirely your responsibility. The government has already relieved itself of most of its responsibilities; you hardly even feature in their tally anymore. It does not matter where you are, you are never safe.


The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.