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High alert on the Constitution Avenue!

ISLAMABAD: Riding a red imported car, a middle-aged man sets out to test heightened security in the capital city as the country launches offensive against Waziristan militants. News channels continue to feed the public with the impression that commandoes have taken over key installations, the Pakistan Rangers are patrolling the sensitive or potentially vulnerable areas, and personnel at checkpoints have become even more vigilant. Aboard the Islamabad registered car, the man along with three school-goers visited the so called Red Zone without a cop manning the checkpoint inquiring about his National Identity Card or even looking inside the vehicle. Driving from the Super Market to the Marriot Hotel, the first check point was seen letting everyone pass. While one cop manned the post, half a dozen were busy gossiping inside a patrol van adjacent to the KPK House boundary wall. There was neither a state of alert nor beefing up of force, at least where it mattered. Most of the cars passing the checkpoint had a sizeable boot or trunk, with enough space to carry a couple of suitcases. The red car with crystal clear windows took turn with PTV Station towards right and Pakistan Secretariat on the left came another checkpoint. At around 11pm, only one policeman stared at the car. He did not ask the driver to stop, what to talk of inquiring for his purpose of visit or identity papers. About 150 meters ahead, two mini-trucks of paramilitary forces were parked, with their engines running. Though this inquisitive gentleman was only counter-checking the state of alert in the capital for the safety of his offspring, someone with a clandestine idea to humiliate the prime minister’s pledge for terror-free, secure Pakistan could have wrecked havoc here. Laden with a grisly design and deadly confidence, a clean-shaven man aboard a decent looking, popular family car may not face a real hindrance in reaching the gates of Parliament House, Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Diplomatic Enclave, Radio Pakistan or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Like the Karachi Airport or other previous last-minute damage control measures, guards-on-duty at the gates may swing in action but for an elected premier and the entire nation, the incident can become an unparalleled embarrassment. As for the much-trumpeted security of the Diplomatic Enclave is concerned, neither the car boot is opened nor is it visually screened from the inside. A vintage bomb detecting technique using a reflecting metal or mirror is used to see if explosives are fitted beneath the car floor. Despite over a decade-long fight against terror, the civilian law-enforcing institutions have yet to raise an institute to train canine squads. Security personnel at none of the top institutions along the Constitution Avenue are equipped with trained guard dogs, whose sniffing and hearing abilities are 2,000 times stronger than an average human being. Coming back to the red sedan on the Avenue, the school-going sons fancy eating ice cream to beat the late evening heat. The dad pulls up the sedan at the tuck shop of the PSO Petrol Station where half dozen other random cars are parked, either to be refuelled or their occupants’ buying bread or imported cigarettes. As the family drove back, the children were excited at the smooth trip (against their dad’s expectations). As they reach their home, the dad declares, “You can sleep tight, we are all safe. May Allah protect us!” 

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Aaj Kal