The Services & Gen. Admn. Department (S&GAD) of the Punjab government is looking to procure bullet proof vehicles for the “protection of dignitaries and senior government officers”. A document containing the correspondence between the concerned department and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif over the relevant matter offers reveals the standard of decision-making that is maintained within administrative circles. The S&GAD has pointed out the obvious, and offered a quick solution. It observed that terrorism is on the rise in the country, and government officers make for moving, but easy targets. Following the popular trend, a proposal for the procurement of bullet proof vehicles were made. Provides instant security without having to deal with the root problem? Check. Costs loads of taxpayer money? Check. Definitely sounds like something that would appear extremely appealing to the people in power.

As it happens, committees were formed to “spearhead the procedure” for the procurement of four Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6 and two Toyota Vigo Champ vehicles were as instructed by the CM. Three companies were contacted for this purpose namely, Streit Pakistan Private Limited, Omer Gibran Engineering Industries Limited and a government organization, Heavy Industries Taxila. The HIT, which works under the Defense Ministry, only provided rates for two types of vehicles, out of the nine sought by the department initially. Also, the rates which it did provide were twice compared to provided by the private companies. Why is it that the HIT is charging so much higher than the market price? If anything, as a government organization, it should quote reasonable rates since it is money of the very few taxpayers in Pakistan which is spent on such instant solutions. Regardless, the CM preferred HIT, following in the footsteps of the KPK and Sindh governments.

But, it didn’t end there. The technical committee, after visiting the HIT facility, concluded that the vehicles approved by the CM did not meet the necessary standards required to ensure safety. In its final proposal, it sought the approval of “Toyota Corolla Land Cruiser 4.3” or “new factory made BMW/Mercedes/Audi vehicles”. We should all appreciate the restraint exercised by the committee, which is evident from the fact that a Ferrari or a Lamborghini did not make it to the list. Inefficiency and disregard of taxpayer money aside, a danger, as pointed out by the S&GAD, does exist. But, the government cannot just provide bullet proof vehicles to people left and right, while not addressing the fundamental problem; terrorism. Even if it miraculously manages to ensure the safety of all its employees, the security of the rest of the population will continue to be its unfulfilled duty. Does everyone else too get a BR-6 Level armored vehicle? Only so much time can be spent brushing problems under the carpet. When will we ever learn that the fight needs to be taken to the militants in their hideouts, and living behind bullet proof glass doesn’t have to be out fate?