Poor security at Karachi Cantonment Station endangers thousands of lives

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Karachi, September 29, 2011 (PPI): Lives of thousands of passengers are in danger due to the poor security arrangements at the busiest railway station of Karachi, Karachi Cantonment Station, handling arrival and departure of 18 passengers trains daily, besides dozens of cargo rails.

The security arrangements at Karachi Cantonment Station, whose historical building also enjoys heritage status, are quite unsatisfactory and several places of this big railway station are unguarded, whereas many police officials, even those deputed at the walkthrough gates, seem lacking professional attitude and alertness to properly screen passengers and visitors, endangering the lives of thousands of passengers and their attendants.

When this scribe visited the railway station, it was found that some cops were deputed at the main entrances, who seemed uninterested to keep strict security vigil on their surroundings. Some were even seen reading newspapers and smoking cigarettes.

A porter, on condition of anonymity, said there are quite a lot of points without any security guards, from where locations remain unguarded, from where people cloud enter and leave without any check. These points are left unguarded to help the passengers who travel without tickets in connivance to corrupt railway staff to slip out safely.

As the whole country is fighting the menace of terrorism, the crowded Karachi Cantonment Station could easily be a soft target for the terrorists.

Sources say that the station has received many threats but inadequate measures thus far have been taken by the authorities to end security loopholes. There are some 25 close-circuit cameras at the station, but any portions of it are out of the reach of these surveillance cameras. Furthermore, Railway Police are not properly equipped and professionally to deal with sophisticated methods being used by terrorists now a days.

An attendant waiting for his brother told PPI,” When high security zones like GHQ and Mehran Base can be attacked, then how can they stop a terrorist attack here with so little security arrangements”

A frequent visitor to the Cantt Station, Salman Aslam, said,” There are so many points from where one can easily get access the platforms and board trains. Only Allah has saved the station and its passengers thus far.”

When contacted, Karachi Division Railway Police SSP Muzaffar Shaikh, admitted that the security arrangements at the station still need much betterment. He said, however, the railway police try their best to safeguard passengers, trains and other railway assets, utilizing all resources at their hand.

To a question, he said that police commandos are only deputed on special occasions such as a visit by some senior minister or dignitary; otherwise, ordinary railway police guards the location. He admitted that there is need to increase the number of railway cops at the station to ensure foolproof security. He said presently with limited manpower the railway police could not man each and every area of this big railway station round-o-clock.

Muzaffar Sheikh said that there are about 25 cameras installed but they do not cover the entire premises. “The railways do not have money to even purchase diesel for their engine and provide salaries to their employees and how can they increase funds to improve security arrangements at their stations and installation”, he asked.

SHO Cantt Station Habibullah Khan Khattak also echoed the voice of his superior and agreed that the present security arrangements are insufficient, whereas the current strength of railway cops is incapable of thwarting a major terrorist attack. He said that there are about 65 police officials, who perform duties in three shifts. A commando is being deployed in each engine driver‘s cabin and one at the breaks to thwart any attempt by terrorists to hit trains, the SHO added.