Pakistan considering US guards for Zardari


Islamabad : Special security guards from the US are now being considered for Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari following the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by one of his own security men, a media report said.

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The Express Tribune quoted sources as saying that though Zardari’s security has always been cause of concern for the authorities, a proposal is also under consideration by the government to hire the services of foreign security guards for a number of VVIPs, including the prime minister, provincial governors, chief ministers, and a few federal ministers.

Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down Jan 4 by one of his security guards in a posh market in Islamabad. Guard Mumtaz Quadri, who immediately surrendered after the attack, said he killed Taseer for opposing blasphemy laws.

The proposal for foreign guards come as a part of the government’s decision to review security arrangements of important personalities following Taseer’s killing, validating fears that religious extremism has penetrated the ranks of security forces in Pakistan, the media report said.

“An overhaul in the present security system has been recommended as an essential requirement by the authorities responsible for the safety and well-being of the VVIPs,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

Zardari, on several occasions, has been quoted to have said in the presence of US diplomats and officials that his life was in danger. He has also reportedly instructed his son, Bilawal, to name his sister Faryal Talpur as the president in case he was assassinated.

Taseer’s killing has led the police department in Islamabad to collect detailed data of its personnel. The data includes the religious leanings of its personnel and also their family background in terms of affiliations with religious organisations.

Such data collection is also being recommended for the police departments of other provinces.