Security flaws

The murder of Hendry Massih at the hands of his own guard in Quetta on Saturday has been widely condemned by government and opposition politicians, who seem genuinely aggrieved by the killing. Mr Massih was a Christian minority seat holder in the Balochistan Assembly from the Baloch National Party (BNP), part of the province’s ruling coalition. Reports say he was attacked in front of his residence in Quetta by his security guard of 15 years, Agha Moinuddin, who then fled the scene. Mr Massih’s nephew was with him and was injured but survived. Angry mobs blocked Quetta’s main thoroughfares on Saturday, pelting stones at traffic and burning tyres and the Christian community has announced countrywide protests and declared three days of mourning. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif and other leading politicians were quick to condemn the murder and called for an investigation. While their compassion is undoubtedly heartfelt, they are certainly also worried by the emerging trend of political figures being betrayed by their own security teams, which is becoming a feature of Pakistan’s security landscape. The motive behind this murder remains unknown and it may be that Mr Massih’s guard had personal reasons for attacking his employer. Some reports allege that Mr Massih fired Moinuddin and then rehired him some days later when the man pleaded for his job back. Whether it was this incident that triggered his violent response we do not yet know. However, the fact that a trusted member of his household could so betray Mr Massih leads to troubling questions about the efficacy and reliability of the people responsible for VIP protection. In this case the lapse in judgment appears to have come from Mr Massih himself but in other cases, most notably that of Salmaan Taseer, the offices charged with vetting and assigning security personnel have showed their laxity, with tragic results. That lawmakers and politicians seem to be fair game for murder is cause for concern and indicates that the security apparatus in Pakistan is far from the efficient and well-trained machine required to do the job.
Mr Massih’s death cannot be seen as an isolated incident and indicates several areas for reform. First, the loyalty of security personnel needs to be to the institution they serve and the duty they are obliged to fulfil. Too much of the security apparatus, especially the police, is politicised by hiring personnel based on personal recommendations or ‘bharti’. The loyalty of these individuals is then to the people that hire them and not to the institution. Personal loyalty is also cause for personal vendetta if the relationship turns sour, as apparently happened in this case. Affiliations to political parties, religious groups, or ideologies that contradict their duty to institutions of state often trump the latter, as was seen in the case of Mumtaz Qadri. Very rarely are personnel tested to see if their worldly affiliations are stronger than their respect for their country. The training process, which in other countries embeds loyalty into the minds of police and security personnel, is here haphazard, ill conceived, and might not even be considered training in many places. Most police officers begin their real training when they hit the streets where they usually learn how to terrorise citizens rather than guard them. There is also little fear of being caught: while the government has said it will find the killer, the chances of this happening are slim. Large parts of the country are uncontrolled by the state, the police has a dismal record in catching and prosecuting criminals, and in this instance there are groups that will shelter the alleged killer simply because he murdered a Christian. Mumtaz Qadri was hailed as a hero by some in the legal community itself, a fact that stands in the way of his being put to death as he should be, while the late Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s killers remain at large. Hence the murder of another respected community member and legislator should be a wake up call for the government and security apparatus, which is clearly full of holes that show why Pakistan is having such a hard time beating terrorism.   *

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Aaj Kal