By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
We all heard about the alleged terror attack on a flight going to the US from England. This attack was to be committed with liquid explosives which were to be camouflaged as permissible liquids. In the wake of the news, all of Europe tightened its securityâ€”especially England. Authorities tell us that this is the first time Britain has been put on such high alert. Now people traveling to and from the countries involved cannot take anything in liquid form. No hand carries are allowed, and I am sure you heard that whatever bare minimum one needs should be carried in plastic see-through bags.
All this took place while I was away from homeâ€”not too far away, just in Karachi. I was set to fly back home to Lahore in a couple of days. People were contemplating what the situation is and how the domestic flights might be affected. I didnâ€™t take any of that seriously because I thought this took place half way across the world, so why would it be of any concern to me flying from Karachi to Islamabad? People kept telling me to prepare accordingly. They told me you have your son with you, prepare for any unforeseen situationâ€”and I did not take them seriously. I thought, â€œNo one tried to blow up anything here in Pakistan, so why should domestic flights be involved in anything of this sort?â€ Sure, international flights make sense but my travel plans should not be an issue.
We set out for the airport. Our luggage was put through the screening belt. The security personnel sitting at the computer turned to me and said, if you have any liquids in your baby bag, please take them out. This surprised me. He could see the baby sleeping on my shoulder. I told him that if there is any liquid, it was milk and juice for the baby, and I cannot take that out of the bag. He looked at me a few seconds and saidâ€¦ok. I thought thatâ€™s not so bad. In Pakistan women get checked physically by a female official in a small booth. This other lady and I were standing in line when the female officer came up to us and said do you have any lotion or perfume in your purse? The woman next to me was stunnedâ€¦she thought for a moment and replied, â€œI am sure I doâ€. The officer said, well if you do you have to take them out you canâ€™t take them with you. The lady refused. She said I have my very expensive perfume and lotion in there I cannot just leave it here. I did not have anything in my purse so I passed through. I am not sure what became of that poor woman.
At the check-in counter where we received our boarding passes and checked in our luggage, they asked us random questions about what we are taking and whether we had liquids. Before making it to the gate, there was one more check post. Again they asked me to take out the liquids from the baby bag. I told them this is for my child and I cannot part with the milk and the juice. â€œOkay, well maybe the juice but definitely not the milk.â€ Again they looked at each other with puzzled looks and than let me go. As I was walking away I saw a man whose pockets were being searched. A breath freshener was discovered from his pocket. He was told he cannot take this on the plane. He asked why he couldnâ€™t take it and the answer he received was, â€œbecause there is liquid inside it.â€ The man frustrated took the spray from the security officers hands and sprayed it in his mouthâ€¦he looked at the security officer as if to say, â€œif these were explosives would I have donâ€™t this?â€ he was allowed to take his small tiny bottle of breath freshener after 15 minutes of searching and questioning.
I was surprised as to how seriously our government had taken this matter which was not even our problem. No one tried to hurt us. Our country was not involved in the situation in any way or form. Yet our government is taking such large measures, inconveniencing the public. But of course I keep forgetting that we have to follow the big dogs. If the United States does something we are automatically obligated to follow in their footsteps no matter how troublesome it is for the public here.
We are pretty sure that this kind of terrorist attack will not be administered on domestic flights going to and from Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore. Everyone knows that it is next to impossible not to carry bags with you, especially when you are traveling with children or the elderly. I guess I should say everyone knows except our government.
So, are these safety precautions helping in Pakistan? From where I am standing (which is with the rest of the country) people look more frustrated and annoyed. Some alleged terrorist act took place in some other part of the world and now we are paying the price by being hassled at airports for no good reason. It seems that the people of Pakistan should get used to getting hassled because of incidents that have nothing to do with us. Why would I say such a thing? Well the answer is obviousâ€¦that is our fate during the term of our president, who serves at the good pleasure of Americaâ€™s rulers. â€¢