OPINION

Far Above the Call of Duty

By Capt (Retd) Pervaiz Malik

Cash in transit is a business full of risks and responsibilities. This entails carrying cash from one place to another, sometimes off to far flung remote areas. Over the years CIT business has evolved exponentially but so are the risks involved in it. Robbing cash-carrying transport, whether it’s stage coaches of the wild west or a modern armored vehicle, is a tempting target for the robbers. Even modern developed countries are prone to such attacks, despite the fact that there first responders, law enforcement agencies and infrastructure pose more challenges to carry out such a feat. Robberies on cash carrying vehicles are now more frequented then any time before, primarily because of high inflation, joblessness and law order situation in Pakistan.

On Friday, 3rd January 2019 at about 1430 hours an armoured Cash-In-Transit (CIT) vehicle of a private security services company Wackenhut Private Limited was parked outside Yusuf Plaza branch of Summit Bank in Karachi to pick up cash. Security guard Ghulam Abbas and vehicle commander Muhammad Nazeer came out of the bank branch carrying cash bags and placed the same in the vehicle. As they were about to close the door of the vehicle they were attacked by 3 armed men who opened indiscriminate fire inside the closed confines of the vehicle. During the ensued gun battle, Ghulam Abbas sustained three bullet wounds and Commander Nazeer a bullet to his shoulder. Muhammad Nazeer despite his injuries reacted and fired back at the attacker from inside of the vehicle. His utmost professionalism and thorough training paid off and the attacker was hit in the stomach. The attacker in the melee managed to escape with a cash bag which was about to be placed in the vault of the vehicle, here a word of appreciation is must for the crew of the vehicle. The crews showed great dedication to duty and a sense of utmost responsibility during the time of crisis. They all knew their lives were at stake but they kept calm and responded in a manner which we only see in movies. The intent of the attackers, right from the onset of events, was to kill all and take away whatever cash was inside the vehicle. But what they did not anticipate and foresee, was the dedication and sense of responsibility of the crews. The fight back by the crews prevented them to carry out their heinous act in its entirety. They were unable to snatch the other cash bags lying in the vehicle because of the resistance by Nazeer.

Both guards were immediately evacuated to Zia Uddin Hospital in North Nazimabad by the CIT driver. After getting medical supervision Nazeer was discharged the same day .  Ghulam Abbas who sustained three bullets fought for his life in the hospital. He was moved to the operation theatre for surgery as advised by the doctor. A major surgery was performed for three hours after which he was moved to ICU. Due to the condition of the guard, who was bleeding profusely from three bullet wounds, the hospital asked for immediate arrangement of blood donors. A total of 55 bottles of blood was transfused to the injured guard. It is pertinent to mention here that the comradeship and espirit de corps of the entire company is laudable on all counts. Within minutes of the announcement of blood donation more than 170 personnel including Chairman and Senior Management of the company lined up in front of the blood bank to donate blood, so much so that the hospital staff was overwhelmed by the response and refused to further entertain any blood donors. This amply illustrates the character of this company and the atmosphere that has been inculcated among its staff.

As the guard’s condition became critical, doctors decided to go for another surgery on the third day, however despite all medical care Ghulam Abbas passed away embracing martyrdom eleven days after the incident. A special vigil and Quran Khawani was offered for the Shaheed guard Ghulam Abbas. His body was buried in his native village with full company protcols.

Although no monetary benefits can compensate for Ghulam Abbas life yet the immortal facts of life cannot be overlooked. Life of Ghulam Abbas family must go on without feeling deprivation. As per the company policy the security company bore all the medical expenses amounting to 1.53 million. A string of benefits were announced for the bereaved family, which included life insurance compensation, full salary to be paid to the widow for two years and half salary afterwards till her son attains the age of 18. In this era of capitalism where everything is weighed in profit and loss by private thriving companies, this feat speaks volumes about an institution which basis its principles on humanity first. No financial gain or loss supersedes the life of an employee. This tragedy negates all such financial mathematics, this company puts all these financial  calculations on back burner and strived hard to save the life of an Individual, a fellow human being.

Tributes must be paid to all those who worked hard to save the life of Ghulam Abbas and foremost is the  staff of Zia-ud-din Hospital , who deserve an applause for their professionalism. The doctors of Zia-ud-din Hospital did exactly what one expects from a doctor in times of anguish. Day and night, working around the clock they gave there best to save Ghulam Abbas life. All hats off to their professionalism. 

Such incidents always come with a painful aftermath. sense of accountability and revenge sets in ,it is a human factor which cannot be overlooked. Here again the company went out of the way to bring the culprits to justice who took the life of an innocent man. A First Information Report was lodged on the day of the incident and the case was pursued on all levels. Sindh Police showed a side which might be unknown to many. They worked day and night to crack this blind case. In just seven days they not only apprehended all the culprits but also recovered the stolen cash. There efforts are greatly commendable, they went beyond call of duty. They worked in manner that one only expects from the police of a highly developed country. The way forensic and investigation was carried out deserve an appreciation. A dedicated officer and a pride for the Sindh police.  The IGP Sindh remained in constant touch with the chairman of the company, SHO, DSP,SP, SSP regardless of there rank were in the field. All were in constant touch with the company management, gave assurances and progress reports on daily basis. Ultimately there hard work paid off. This was truly professional and competent team work by the police.

Guard Ghulam Abbas set a personal example of devotion to duty at the cost of his life and will be remembered for a long time while Commander Muhammad Nazeer also performed extraordinarily, keeping his nerves in a hostile situation and reacting with courage. Pakistanis are truly exceptional and will perform beyond expectations given the right leadership and good governance environment. When people are willing to risk their lives only underlines the exemplary character of the uniformed personnel. Besides being a hardworking and industrious lot, Pakistanis are brave, patriotic, honest and dedicated to their responsibilities. 

One of the most important traits of any security guard is that he must be honest, he should also be self-motivated to keep company clients safe and secure by maintaining professional integrity. In doing his job he represents 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 can easily become a hazard for themselves and those they are meant to protect. Guards must be imparted training and experience on how to react in critical situations.

Ghulam Abbas and  Muhammad Nazeer performed well beyond the call of normal duty even when outgunned and outnumbered against three desperate dacoits who were willing to kill. Their outstanding commitment and devotion to duty is a matter of great pride for us. Endowed with qualities of bravery, honesty and responsibility, their response exhibited these qualities to the fullest. 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 many. 

These 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 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 writer is a security specialist).

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