A PICTURE carried by this newspaper yesterday was certainly worth a thousand words. It showed rows upon rows of military uniforms on sale at a market in Mardan, despite a ban on such sale. It is pertinent to highlight here that several major terrorist incidents over the past few years have been carried out by perpetrators clad in army uniforms. These include, among others, the massacres of Shia bus passengers in Kohistan and Mansehra in February and August this year, respectively, as well as the attacks on the PNS Mehran and Minhas Kamra airbases. The army itself fell victim to this ruse when terrorists in army uniform attacked the GHQ in October 2009, after which a ban was imposed on the unauthorised sale of military uniforms. By all accounts, the ban has never been enforced.
Impersonating members of the army or law-enforcement agencies is a virtually foolproof tactic of gaining access to at least the outer parameters of high-security areas, not to mention an effective way of intercepting vehicles on the road. It is thus incomprehensible how army uniforms, as well as those of civilian law-enforcement agencies, can be openly sold in markets to which the public has access. Moreover, the particular market depicted in the photograph mentioned above is not in some remote outpost in the tribal areas but in Mardan, the second largest city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is the province most affected by terrorism. While it may be difficult to completely prevent people bent on creating mayhem from acquiring such uniforms, the government can at the very least ensure that the ban is strictly enforced and those flouting it are penalised to the fullest extent of the law. In a country where terrorists are running amok, let’s not make their job easier.