By Imran Naeem Ahmad
ISLAMABAD: Plans of the authorities to secure the Red Zone by building a wall all around just may not be the right solution to a danger that will continue to lurk anyway.
The decision prompted by the September 20 terror strike on the Marriott Hotel, means that billions of rupees from government coffers are to be spent on erecting this ‘great wall’.
Officials believe it will keep all ‘sensitive’ buildings in the zone safe, among them the Aiwan-e-Sadar, Prime Minister House and his secretariat, Supreme Court and a host of other offices on Constitution Avenue.
For long, the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have found it convenient to shut down different areas and roads in the capital in the name of security. Often the people have reacted angrily to all such moves yet not much has ever been done to address their concerns.
MK Sufi, a member of the Islamabad Citizens’ Committee, believes that the public opinion should have been sought on making the wall. “I think the way the authorities are going, this town will soon become a walled city,” he said.
He suggested that the money to be spent on building the wall could rather be utilised for providing the people decent transport.
“Commuters continue to suffer but no one pays heed and here we are going ahead with a wall that makes no sense,” he said pointing out that shutting down the town was such a manner was against human rights.
Sufi thought that soon different sectors might also be fortified. But already some of them are in a state of siege, thanks to offices of many embassies, UN agencies, NGOs and other businesses operating out of private houses.
A number of streets were barricaded, especially after the attacks on an Italian restaurant and the Danish Embassy, both of which were based in residential areas. However, the monstrous attack on Marriott came as a rude wake-up call for the authorities.
Many other people have also questioned the decision of walling up the Red Zone. “First the Diplomatic Enclave was made out of bounds, then the Constitution Avenue and now we are being pushed back even further,” said Irfan Adil, an executive in a private firm.
The Constitution Avenue, running alongside the corridors of power is one of Islamabad’s showpiece roads yet for the past one year it hasn’t been the thoroughfare it used to be. It has remained barricaded since former President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule last year and not even the arrival of a democratic government has brought about any change in its status.
Residents are now left wondering that given the security situation, what would be the shape of the town where they once roamed free.
“You cannot go here, you cannot go there, I think there will come a time when we will be told to stay at home all the time,” remarked Omer Rafiq, a university student.
He stressed that building walls was not the answer to the problem. “We need to spend money on increasing the capacities of our intelligence and security agencies rather than making walls,” he said.
Marriott was a security lapse and Thursday’s attack inside the Police Lines another slip up. So what good would a wall be when the security personnel are caught napping.
Source: Daily Times, 11/10/2008