LAHORE - The 23-year-old civilian, who was shot dead by the bodyguards of a top public representative’s son on Ghazi Road, was laid to rest at a local graveyard on Thursday. Initial investigation reveals that the only ‘sin’ of Malik Tahir was that he tried to overtake the armed convoy of Abdul Qadir Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani.

After a brief altercation, the college boy was shot in head by one of the bodyguards with an SMG assault rifle, resulting in his on-the-spot death. Tahir, a resident of Wapda Town, was going with his brother Waheed to distribute sacrificial meat among family and friends in the DHA vicinity.

An eyewitness told police that Qadir Gilani, accompanied by gun-toting guards, stopped at a signal near Y-Block of DHA, when the tragedy took place. As per police investigators, the two brothers got into an argument with one of the bodyguards for not giving them way. In the meantime, the guard opened straight fire. Victim’s family and friends protested against the brutal murder and placed the body on Ghazi Road, followed by a sit-in outside the house of the former prime minister in Y-Block. The Lahore police sprang into action after the media broke the rueful story. Top police officers, including Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf, rushed to the site for cooling down the protesters but to no avail.

Later, Lahore CIA police Chief SP Umar Virk contacted the Gilani family and made a request for taking the shooter guard in custody. Although the police booked Qadir Gillani and his six guards under sections 302 and 109 of the PPC and 7-ATA, they took in custody Muhammad Khan, a resident of Sanghar district of the Sindh province. The guard told the investigators that he wanted to shoot the motorcyclist in the leg “but unfortunately the bullet struck Tahir in the head.”

The father of the deceased told the media after the funeral that the shooting was an act of terrorism backed by the VIPs. He called for justice and made an appeal for an end to such culture.

The sad story sparked outrage among all the segments of society overnight.

“I personally have seen many drivers of tinted SUVs and gun-toting guards sitting in the rear of their double-cabins, literally terrorising public on roads,” says Muhammad Sajjad, a schoolteacher in Lahore. The influential persons or VIPs may feel safe and better with gun-toting security personnel, automatic weapons, motorcade or bomb detection squad guarding them but the ordinary people are feeling the pinch, he added.

Qadir Gilani, who was usually provided a police escort, was travelling with his private guards during Eid days. In Pakistan, the VIPs and VVIPs are given strong security including one pilot vehicle and two escort vehicles, each with ten men. Moreover, security personnel are deployed round the clock to the residences of VVIPs as well. The police, along with a dog squad, have to check the VVIP's house every day. The security will be supervised by an officer of SP rank, with the assistance of a DSP and several police personnel.

Unfortunately, gun culture is thriving across Pakistan. In February 2011, two young men were killed by aerial firing at a wedding party in Sanda area of Lahore. The bullets were allegedly fired by the groom’s brothers. Such accidents are almost an every-day affair in Pakistan, a country where any festive occasion is often announced by the sound of gunfire.

Similarly, much of mainstream Pakistani culture, including Balochi, Sindhi, Punjabi and Kashmiri cultures, is heavily influenced by guns, as evidenced by common practice of aerial firings on special occasions such as weddings. In Punjab, police would never have thought of launching a crackdown against guards travelling in ‘double-cabin vehicles.’ Police officers and crime experts say the police are unable to provide security to every person; no matter it is the police’s job to safeguard the lives and property of people. The state cannot outsource the security of citizens. Unless more personnel are inducted into the force and trained properly, the dependence on private security will continue, they added. They strongly recommended that there is a need to have a stricter check on the growth of personal militias. Gun-toting men roaming around on city streets should have no place in civilised society, they opined. It has also been witnessed that the VIP culture is becoming a status symbol. Apart from powerful politicians, gun-toting guards accompanying top bureaucrats, police officers, influential landlords, and even some businessmen are seen harassing the roads users.

The attitude of the bodyguards, escorting VIPs, is often very insulting towards other commuters as the gun-carrying guards not only gesture rudely towards the law abiding citizens but also violate the human rights and traffic rules.