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Courage beyond compare

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Ikram Sehgal |

On Feb 13 at about 1210 hours an armoured cash-in-transit (CIT) vehicle of a private security services company was parked outside the Tarnol branch of Meezan Bank in Islamabad to pick up cash amounting to Rs. 14 million from the bank. As the two security guards, Supervisor Muhammad Afsar and Armed Guard Muhammad Safoor Khan came out of the branch carrying two satchels full of money, they were attacked by five dacoits. Safoor (a former NCO from Air Defence), who was carrying the satchels, received a bullet in his chest when fired upon at point blank range (a later autopsy showed the bullet wound tearing the side of his heart). 

As the dacoits tried to snatch the bags he turned even though gravely wounded, ran towards the bank branch with the satchels containing the money in his hand. The critical injury notwithstanding, his first instinct, developed through weeks of pre-job training and hundreds of hours of valuable experience gained while on the job, was to carry out his assigned mission of protecting his responsibility at all costs. Safoor collapsed and died just 20 feet short of the door of the bank.  What words can describe this selfless attempt to fulfil his prime mission?

Seeing this opportunity the other dacoit tried to grab one of the two bags but the Supervisor Afsar (formerly a Naib Subedar from 8 AK) acted quickly, firing a round on the dacoit he managed to snatch the bag back.  Taking hold of the other bag from Safoor who by this time had died, he started running towards the bank. One of the dacoits shot at him hitting him in the groin, badly injuring Afsar who nevertheless managed to enter the door of the branch where he handed over the two bags to bank officials. Only then did Afsar collapse gasping in pain and discomfort. The bullet is still lodged close to his femoral vein, surgically difficult to dislodge.

“Risking their lives on many occasions only underlines the exemplary character of our uniformed personnel. Besides being a hardworking and industrious lot, Pakistanis are brave, patriotic, honest and dedicated to their responsibilities.”

Supervisor Khalid (ex-16 FF) protecting the CIT vehicle had in the meantime engaged the other dacoits, Driver Noor Khan seeing his colleagues in danger left the safety of his vehicle contrary to the SOP. In the melee the dacoits left empty-handed, the prompt action by the CIT crew had saved the day. The bank’s cash was intact but it came at a heavy price from a dedicated professional who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Safoor gave his life and Afsar was injured.

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The bravery, dedication and commitment displayed by the crew was extraordinary. Their performance in an extremely dangerous situation was exceptional and exemplary. The injured Afsar could just as easily have stood by and watched while the armed dacoits took the bags and escaped, no one would have censured or blamed him, it being a matter of life and death. His partner had already died having already done his bit.

 “Men with courage exist in all countries but not in the exceptional numbers as Pakistanis. A typical Pakistani is exceptionally so!  The Army’s rank and file is universally recognized as being among the bravest and most professional in the world.”

While it will not be fair to comment on the action, or the lack of it, of security guards on duty at the Bank’s branch, the fact is they did nothing to try and come to the support of our CIT guards even as the sordid episode was being played out. The first instinct of any good security guard would have been to challenge anyone trying to steal the bank’s money and if shots were fired, to respond in the same manner!

 “Our unsung armed uniformed personnel carry out their assigned duties, unnamed and unrecognized, their performance saves precious lives by putting themselves in harm’s way.”

This incident highlights how given the right leadership and good governance environment Pakistanis are truly exceptional. Many have left their mark by demonstrating an unwavering commitment to their profession, and our success has been achieved through their aptitude and sheer hard work fully exploiting their capabilities. Risking their lives on many occasions only underlines the exemplary character of our uniformed personnel. Besides being a hardworking and industrious lot, Pakistanis are brave, patriotic, honest and dedicated to their responsibilities.

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Men with courage exist in all countries but not in the exceptional numbers as Pakistanis. A typical Pakistani is exceptionally so!  The Army’s rank and file is universally recognized as being among the bravest and most professional in the world. An important trait of a security guard is that he must be honest, he should also be self-motivated to keep clients safe and secure by maintaining professional integrity. 

He tries to represent the company and client to the same standard of quality they represent themselves. Whether he works at a bank, an office building, or residence, etc, a security guard has the vital responsibility of being vigilant and steadfast in protecting his responsibility.  Due consideration must be given to lives of personnel performing such security duties. These personnel must have adequate firearms training, including regular live firing. Because of the lack of proper oversight procedures, this aspect is again given mere lip-service, untrained guards without adequate experience of handling firearms are a hazard for themselves and those they are meant to protect without training and experience of how to react in such situations.

 “Due consideration must be given to lives of personnel performing such security duties. These personnel must have adequate firearms training, including regular live firing.”

Our three guards (and the driver) performed well beyond the call of normal duty even when outgunned and outnumbered against five desperate dacoits who were willing to kill. The brave sons of the soil who were shot were both ex-servicemen, one was with us for 10 years while the other had service of over15 years. Their outstanding commitment and devotion to duty is a matter of great pride for us.

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Endowed with qualities of bravery, honesty and responsibility, their response exhibited these qualities to the fullest. Two days earlier guard Amin prevented a client being robbed outside Summit Bank in Karachi in the Bank’s car park by scaring off the dacoits by firing warning shots. Considered to be ordinary and lowly individuals, these security guards have stoic courage and are dedicated to their profession beyond the normal calling. Their overwhelming sense of duty secures a peaceful environment for our many clients.

Our unsung armed uniformed personnel carry out their assigned duties, unnamed and unrecognized, their performance saves precious lives by putting themselves in harm’s way. They have very little reward except for their salary and at times, overtime. Disregarding their personal safety they invariably display commendable initiative and courage when faced with very threatening situations.

They are a selfless lot, not complaining but being satisfied with what they have and striving always to perform beyond the call of duty. One’s heart is filled with pride in having the selfless devotion to duty of such remarkable men of courage.  The rhetorical question, what have we done to deserve the loyalties and dedication of such magnificent men? (the writer is a defence and security analyst).

Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is Pakistani defence analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.


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