A Pakistani commando who vowed to protect Indian women journalists

     "Main Aap Ki Jaan Bachaane Kay Liye Apni Jaan De Doonga" (I will lay down my life to protect yours)" was the assurance given to delegates at the first regional conference of South Asian Women in Media in Lahore last week by Ali, a commando in-charge of escort and security. That the delegation had 32 women journalists from India was well known to Ali and he made this statement inside the bus carrying a large number of them. For him, his duty was the priority and current hostility in Indo-Pak relations was not going to hamper his commitment to protect the Indians in any way. Ali was reassuring the delegates after the news of the army headquarters in Rawalpindi being attacked by terrorists started filtering in. Ali and his team, along with four other three-member commando teams of Punjab Police were on 12-hour duty each day, relieved by another set of five teams in the night outside the hotel where the delegates were hosted. Every morning, he used to greet the Indians and the Afghans who understood Hindi with a 'Salaam Alekum' and bid them goodbye with a 'Khuda Hafeez'. The security team escorted delegates from the hotel they were staying in to the conference venue, a drive of 15 minutes. After being on strict vigil outside the venue, they used to escort the delegates either back to the hotel, to dinner, to a cultural programme, sightseeing or even shopping as the case may be. Ali was a fantastic guide at Lahore Fort, the Badshahi Mosque and the Minar-e-Pakistan. He pointed out that the Badshahi Mosque was the largest in Asia and made it a point that every delegate had a view of the three Korans written in gold and silver displayed at the Mosque. He, of course had no choice but to act as guide because all guides and visitors were being kept off at a distance from the visitors at the historic sites because of security concerns. Carrying his heavy machine gun and throwing quick, searching looks all around, he kept on answering queries with utmost patience. He even offered valuable tips like taking a picture of the Minar from a balcony of the Mosque. Admittedly, the view was splendid. Ali wears the badge of a blood donor. When asked, he said his blood group was O+ve. When told that he was an universal donor, he smiled and replied, "I try to give, always receiving is not the proper thing". Not that he was all sunshine and lightness. When a group of delegates wanted to venture off all alone during a shopping trip, he firmly put his foot down. It was apparent that the constant chaffing of the women at the security restrictions was getting on his nerves. It was a security nightmare for him but he made it clear that disobedience on security matters would not be tolerated. It was admirable that he stuck to his guns on this, even when some of the journalists threatened that they would report him to his seniors. Ali is a brave soldier, a hard-working policeman, a committed commando, sworn to do his duty. He does not compromise on professionalism whatever may be the given task. Be it protecting Indian delegates to his country or fighting for his country at the border. Lahore was attacked by terrorists on October 15th, just two days after the delegates left. They bombed three buildings - all housing security, police and intelligence personnel. It's probable that Ali might have been in one of these three buildings. 38 persons were killed and at least 20 were wounded, many of them policemen and security personnel. It may be hoped that Ali is safe. After all, he is just like a soldier, policeman, commando in our country, India, putting his life at risk for his country. Only difference being, he is a Pakistani by birth.

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