Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Security Lapse? What Security Lapse?

I realize that everyone is now in a position to lecture our defenders on how to defend themselves. Shut down PAF Museum, close down the shaadi business, demolish Shah Faisal Colony, replace those security cameras, take away Rehman Malik's Blackberry etc. etc. etc.

Can I take the opportunity to share a minor security lapse that I was personally a witness to a couple of months ago?

Like most mid-career journalists I dream of real estate, basically owning my own little beach hut on Hawke's Bay. Occasionally I rent or beg my more resourceful friends but wouldn't it be nice to have a little one-room place there? I, along with a friend, found myself in a Colonel sahib's car in the pursuit of this beach fantasy. An enterprising real estate dealer had convinced us that Colonel sahib has a little plot on Hawke's Bay that he would like to sell for a bargain price.

As we reached that blighted turning on Mauripur Road from where you turn for Hawke's Bay and Sand Spit (you know the one which hasn't been paved for past 20 years, because truckers, you know, will ruin it anyway) Colonel Sahib kept driving towards Masroor Air Base. Much better road, he promised us. As we approached the gate, Colonel sahib rolled down his window and gave out his name and rank, and three layers of security melted away, and we started a very pleasant drive on a very nice road inside the base. It puzzled me as it was a private car with no security stickers or anything else.

"Colonel sahib, do you come here quite often?" I asked earnestly.
"Nahin yaar, haven't been here in six years."
"Is this an army car then?"
"No. Bought it myself."
"So why didn't those people ask for your ID? I mean, this is a very important operational base, how do they know that you are a colonel?"
"What?! Don't I look like a colonel?"

An aerial view of Masroor Air Base from the Federation of American Scientists' website

Colonel sahib lowered the volume on Anoop Jalota's sharabi ghazal and stared at us. He wore a white, starched shalwar qameez and Raybans. Okay, he had the fauji haircut, but I have seen lots of non-colonels who look exactly like him.

"Of course you do, Colonel sahib," I reassured him.

The drive through the base was uneventful. It wasn't as posh as we hacks think these things are. We passed by signboards that pointed to Mirage squadrons, the Senior NCO Mess, and lots of empty fields. Colonel sahib admitted that the security was a bit of joke. I wasn't sure if he was indulging potential customers or actually believed it. We exited through a tiny gate which was manned by two sleepy unarmed men in a uniform that we had never seen before.

"They are not soldiers, just chowkidars," Colonel sahib explained. "Somebody has just given them some uniforms."

As we hit the main civilian road we were reassured to see that we had managed to avoid the truck-congested part of the route but not missed the famous snack shop called Chillkaro.com.

And that beach plot? It turned out to be too expensive for me.


Alleged Colonel said...

Bass gaddi de chutay e lenay si? mennu pehlay pata si shokhay jay munday ne enna ne plaat ploot koi nai lena.

TLW said...

"What?! Don't I look like a colonel?"

Uh, yeah.

Story of our (civilian) lives.

Good point Daroon-e-Khana. And putting in open source maps of our bases sort of drives the point home.

Zafar said...

and you are giving it away for them to try, plan and succeed in another attack on an air-force base now.

Anonymous said...

@daroon e khana, well done, dude! you rock! it shows that our military needs to be professional soldiers not "just chowkidars" or "political actors"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
otherwise people will keep mimicking the generals as in this poem--

The Kakul Syndrome

(for the silent revolution in Pakistan)

By Habib Sulemani

God Almighty! Generals fake
They've put country at stake
Generals mean personal gain
The armed forces're in pain!

Generals're bloody fool
Take a bath an' be cool!

Military men’re public servants
Not masters from the heavens!
But they’re arrogant an' cruel
Don't care for common people

Generals're bloody fool
Take a bath an' be cool!

You own huge firms an' agriland
Turning country into terrorland!
No-one among you bothers at all
Where the terrified people stand!

Suffering from the Kakul Syndrome
You're always out—even if at home
By providing terrorists sanctuary
You've failed to protect country

Still you behave like intellectuals
Not men behind petty squabbles!
You've lost every single battle
Yet foolishly believe: you rattle!

Generals're bloody fool
Take a bath an' be cool!

After failure on geographical borders
You champion ideological frontiers
It's easy to fight on ambiguous front
Cos you like a lavish bedroom stint!

Using a pawn religious leader
Or an ISI-paid TV anchor
You can make storm in teacup
Change system—down to up!

The generals’ve taken refuge
In ideological war an' abuse!
Don't try to fool world anymore!
Don't you see outside an uproar?

Generals're bloody fool
Take a bath an' be cool!

See the writing on the wall
Only you’re sick not we all
The military is vanguard
Of a scary fanatic world!
The nation wants to know your aim
You've multiplied the double game!

You’re soldiers or businessmen?
Playing tricks on the politician!
You didn't defend country borders
With broken oath, you’re traitors!

There is no escape from the law
Dug earth with your filthy paw!
You can’t deceive the tax payers
God has heard people’s prayers!

You’ve lied to the nation
Not once, again an' again
You've neither mind nor a soul
An' you’re always playing foul!

Generals're bloody fool
Take a bath an' be cool!

It’s time to take a dose of wisdom!
Stop violation of our basic freedom
Respect democracy at home
Or face the doom an’ gloom!

Anonymous said...

Excellent article! Witty and scary at the same time. You should have this published in a newspaper or magazine! It is that good.

Farrukh Ejaz said...

Its about time Army, Air force and Navy have their butts kicked.

Amar said...

"They are not soldiers, just chowkidars," Colonel sahib explained. "Somebody has just given them some uniforms."

Yes, cant agree more! The real soldiers are the colonels, brigadiers and of course General sahab!

ailya said...

I do agree this is sonewhat usual practice
its time for a radical change in their thought process

when bahadur shah zafar's downfall came, one of the reasons was complacency of the army. The higher ranks of that army used to go to battle field in 'paalki'!
change they should but we must give them credit for where it is due. the sacrifice of a jawan in the line of duty must not be drowned in this noise and uproar against tge army.

Arun said...

Masroor AFB is widely on the web said to house nuclear weapons. I do hope there is 4 layer security, with Colonel Sahibji having only breached the 4th layer.

ArsalanKh said...

True that, I have lived in Masroor base for 5 years almost in mid 90's. I have seen this. My 'Khalu' was telling me the same thing yesterday in fact. he said. when he came to Masroor to visit us with his whole family, the guard at main gate salutes him because he was wearing Ray-ban glasses and had short hair and good height. He was happy to go twice without giving papers on the gate but the 3rd time, He stopped the car and told them that he does work in a base neither he is in any arm force. Told me, if they are making mistake, why should he do the same..

Since, its been more than a decade, I am sure, Masroor has got that much careful but still every one needs to be checked irrespective of their ranks and posts.Its an era of technology. I wonder, whether they have realised to use it now or not.

Anonymous said...

Good piece. Malir Cantt, is even worse. It has a Defence Housing Authority where anyone and everyone with money can buy property, a comparatively cheaper housing area for the middle and lower middle class, eating houses for the public and above all you can drive through on a PUBLIC BUS!!!!!! Then it has sign boards telling where the ISSB is, where the Officers Mess is and this goes on and on. God help us!

AA said...

I am glad this is being shared. however, to be fair, I visited a friend in Malir Cantt a couple of months ago. a HIGH ALERT sign was displayed prominently at the entrance to the Cantt and no one was being allowed inside without handing over their driver's licenses, man and woman alike. Plus all vehicles were being scanned before entering. It was quite a long queue too and certainly deterred me from thinking of visiting again soon.

But terrorists don't get into queues, they hardly ever use the front door I guess. So we should be concerned about security measures on several levels, not just at the entrance.

Yusaf Khan said...

Now we are hearing from the Navy too that this job would not have been possible with out inside help. I had suspected this all along. The ground and lower level technical staff is a lot more radicalised than one expects. Their has to be some narrative the present leadership of Pakistan can utilize that will make such people think of Pakistan first rather than helping out their Taliban brothers. Also, high profile arrests of such people and trials for treason should really help.

Anonymous said...

What are you people doing? Are you mad guys? Be careful sluts.