Cities, Airports & Their Security
April 30, 2010 1 Comment
“Would you please take care of my bag, I’m just coming from outside to get something to eat.” I heard these words while I put my earphones off from the ears after she started gesturing her hand close to my face in order that to get my attention which was attached to listening mp3. I looked at her. She was a Pakistani, seemed to be in mid 20’s. “Sure, it’s alright”, I replied to her. “I’m sitting here”, I added. “Thanks”, she said. “I’m just coming back in a jiffy”. I nodded with smile and put the bag on an empty bench next to mine, while she went off for outside.
It was last year when I was coming back to Pakistan from England and had a stay of around 6 hours at Islamabad airport en route to Karachi — the actual destination. While I have a good enough experience of waiting long hours at airports, I’m bit used to of it now. I wasn’t getting bored at the airport as such, rather I was excited to be in my country, and feeling particularly warmed up — perhaps this was due to that I was just coming from a country after quite a while where the acceptance and reception of benignancy has influenced me by and large.
“You shouldn’t have done that”, another voice reverberated in my ears. I put my head on again and saw few guys sitting on benches in front of me — all of them starring at me. Perhaps they had listened to my and the girl’s conversation. One of them said: “You did wrong. You don’t know what’s inside her bag; you were stranger to her and vice versa. It could be a bomb too”. “Bomb”, I startlingly repeated after him. And then it flashed in my mind like anything that I was in Pakistan and no more in England. “But …”, I stopped saying my words because one of the guy who stood from the bench in hurry exclaimed at his fellows on the bench, “this is surely suspicious — could be a bomb too”, and then I saw others following him — standing up with all due haste as if the bomb was really ready to explode in the next second. The guy who brought the idea that the bag could have a bomb too asked me curtly, “where did the girl go?” (Larki kahan gayee?) I told him she went outside to get the juice and some edibles. So, what could be the situation can you imagine, readers?
All of those sitting on the benches in front of me, just the next moment after completely knowing that I was really stranger to her and the bag was suspicious too, ran amok shouting in the lounge: bomb .. bomb. I couldn’t understand for a minute what to do because the lounge of Islamabad airport — which luckily wasn’t much crowded at that time — was jolted as if the tremor came about. Everyone was running outside following the guys who supposedly announced the bag could have a bomb. I sailed out too to the place where I saw the girl going out. While I went out, I saw her from far coming back. I took a sigh, because if the bag really had any explosive material inside, the girl sure wouldn’t have been coming back. I moved towards her and caught her in between, telling her that the bag she handed me over has created a chaos inside — people left the lounge chaotically, saying it has a bomb. She was surprised, saying “Oh my God, let’s go inside.” I sailed in with her. While we sailed in together, the guy who actually revealed to me the bag could have a bomb, lo and behold, shouted: “Here are they”, aiming his index towards us — telling the servicemen and airport security officials who were standing there. One serviceman, who seemed senior most, asked the girl with a strict tone: “Why did you leave the bag unattended.” Aalia, whose name I actually learnt later, told the servicemen it wasn’t unattended, telling him further that she left it to a friend — aiming at me. That serviceman gave a bad facial gesture to us. He was right at his place, though. By that time we had learnt that the bomb squad arrived within minutes, I guess three or four minutes, and the bag was cleared — marked as safe. I apologized the serviceman and the airport security officer while Aalia did the same too. Things were cooled off in the lounge, humans were back to normal after a few moment of feelings that the death is inevitable today, though they all kept starring both of us — Aalia and me. Maybe they wanted to say “you’re idiots”. But guess what, maybe because of Aalia being a female they just kept their anger limited to the starring-like-bull instead of angry words.
Aalia was like: “Taubah hai, ajeeb drama hogaya ye tu”, while giving the juice and samoosa to me which she had brought for herself too. This juice and samoosa has cost us enough, I said to her, laughing. She laughed too saying, “yes, actually the juice can be bought from inside, but this Pakistani samoosa wasn’t available inside so went out.” Then, that, besides all such chaos and somewhat humiliation, this has become memorable, I said to her. It sure became memorable.
We reviewed the whole event after sitting back on the benches. I told Aalia this was quick of bomb squad, army and airport security that they turned up too promptly. It was really good and responsible of them, I lauded them again. She repeated after me.
Perhaps airport is yet another sensitive place, so that’s why the service was prompt. But then, it pushed me back to a time when I had faced a similar startling event in London underground near the Heathrow and the security turned up in the same due time of three or four minutes that it turned up at Islamabad airport. Thankfully, we’re good in such promptness of security too at the airports, specially when it comes to the comparison with airports like Heathrow or London Underground. What is needed in Pakistan now is the more magnanimous plan for the outside of the airports too, in cities. Prompt services like available at the airports is needed within the cities too, not just for the coping of the potential bomb threats but any kind of issue like the security issues, robbery, theft, mugging, or useless fights etc. It’s time we spend from national exchequer with prudence on these practical issues instead of filling the pockets or bowing down in front of self-proclaimed super powers. Sadly, everyone in government, a big majority at least is doing the same — filling pockets or spending on impractical things.