Cost of security.

Byline: Hajrah Mumtaz

FOR all those living in Karachi, urban crime is a fact of life it is almost a 'tax' that one might pay for all the services that one does not, in fact, get.

Rare is the man who has not been threatened, often at gunpoint, even if he be as recognisable a person as Wasim Akram (who was not held up, but suffered being fired at in the aftermath of a road incident). The streets are for various, well-documented reasons awash with firearms, with much of the city's petty crime occurring because the weapons are already at hand.

This is hardly the case in lovely, leafy Islamabad or so it is thought.

The rates of urban crime in the capital are certainly far lower than in Karachi, but they are climbing up nevertheless. The 'war on terror' and the country's action against militancy have taken a formidable toll, not just in terms of the weaponisation of the population, but also in correlating aspects such as rural-to-urban migration, the loss of lifestyles and livelihood, and a diminished tribal bond.

Efforts to provide safety to the citizenry are, across the board, lacking.

The crime rate is high enough for those who can afford it to give various security companies flourishing business, which in their turn provide employment options for people who might run out of choices otherwise.

So it was that, in the capital city recently, I happened to stay at a house that was equipped with such an alarm system complete with a discreet sign at the gate, a complicated system of lasers, panic buttons in every room, and a system whereby the tripping of the alarm in the house would automatically alert the security company which would, within minutes, dispatch its private armed guards.

Or so goes the theory, as it was explained to me earnestly. But, as always in Pakistan, there is many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.

As chance would have it, I happened to be out walking the household pet when there was suspicion of an attempted burglary at the residence.

Because in Islamabad (unlike several other cities, say the police), one can still be confronted with a scenario such as 'they slipped in through the window', and not necessarily find oneself staring down the barrel of a gun, it fell to my offices to push the button.

The gentleman of the house being aged and ill-disposed, it was further made my task to greet the guards, make sure they checked the perimeters, and take care of the needful. (The guards are not allowed into the house without being...

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