Pak to hire American security guards for Zardari's security

Pak to hire American security guards for Zardari's security

While Zardari's security has always been cause of "serious concern" for authorities, the government is also mulling a proposal to hire foreign security guards for several VVIPs, including the Prime Minister, provincial Governors and Chief Ministers and a few federal ministers, The Express Tribune newspaper quoted highly-placed sources as saying.

The proposal for the President's security envisages deploying US guards in Zardari's "inner-most security cordon", the report said.

The proposals are part of the government's decision to review security arrangements of key personalities following the January 4 assassination of Taseer, which validated "fears that religious extremism had penetrated the ranks of security forces in Pakistan", the 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," a source was quoted as saying by the daily.

An army unit, the 111 Brigade that has been used for several military coups, is currently deployed at the Presidency for the security of Zardari, while police guards are posted around the boundary walls of the palatial building in the heart of Islamabad.

However, Zardari has engaged "many private guards from Sindh" for his personal security, "reflecting a distrust of government-provided security arrangements", the report said.

On several occasions, Zardari "has been quoted to have said in the presence of US diplomats and officials that his life was in danger", the report said.

A secret US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks said Zardari had instructed his son Bilawal, the chief of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, to name his sister Faryal Talpur as the President in case he is killed.

The fear about the presence of extremist ideology in the security forces is not new.
It surfaced a few years ago when personnel of the air force and army were involved in two unsuccessful attempts on the life of then President Pervez Musharraf.

A young Major who had joined the Taliban in the past year after resigning from the Pakistan Army was interrogated by security agencies for his alleged links with Faisal Shahzad, the man who plotted last year's unsuccessful Times Square bombing, the report said.

In a related development, the police department of Islamabad has collected detailed data of its personnel after Taseer's assassination.

This data includes the religious leanings of personnel and their family background, including affiliations with religious organisations.

Authorities plan to purge the department of "suspect elements".

The report said "a few police personnel have already been removed from the security set-up".

Collection of similar data is being recommended for police departments of the four provinces.

Taseer was gunned down by Mumtaz Qadri, a police guard who said he was angered by the politician's criticism of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law.

Investigators have established that Qadri was assigned to protect VVIPs, including the Prime Minister and foreign dignitaries, despite being declared a "security risk" in 2004 for his extremist leanings.

Investigators are yet to determine whether Qadri acted on his own or was part of a wider conspiracy.

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