Karachi:  There are four private security guards for every 1,524 people in the violent city of Karachi, but only one underpaid and untrained policeman for the same number of Karachiites.

According to figures obtained from the Sindh Police and the regulatory body of private security companies, All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA), at any given time in the city only 14,433 personnel of the Sindh Police are available to look after 22 million people of the city as compared to 55,000 private security guards.

“There are around 213 security firms operating in Sindh and 190 of them are registered with us. Collectively, they have a strength of 55,000 personnel in Karachi,” said Tauqirul Islam, spokesman of APSAA. “Around 20,000 more are working in rest of the Sindh,” he added.

On the other hand, the total number of posts in the Karachi police was 31,000 out of which 26,847 were filled, according to a report released by the Sindh Police.

However, out of these 26,847 personnel, 8,541 — a good 31 percent of the force — are utilised for providing security to prominent government officials and offices.

Around 3,000 personnel — 11.5 percent — were posted in investigation units. This left a paltry number of 14,433 policemen in all 103 police stations of Karachi who worked in two 12-hour shifts.

In this situation, combined with the lack of professional training of policemen, the citizens of Karachi are pretty much left to look after themselves.

Sindh Police Chief, Ghulam Hyder Jamali told Bews Lens Pakistan that the total strength of the police force in the province was around 107,000 out of which 31,000 were deployed in Karachi with an operational strength of around 27,000 officials.

On the other hand, the private security guards can be seen everywhere in the city; be it banks, consulates, factories, offices, neighbourhoods and residences.

“Police would take longer to reach a crime scene,” said the owner of a super market in Gulistan-e-Jauhar area. “Though I have to pay between Rs.10, 000 ($100)and Rs.12, 000 ($120) to the security company for each of the four guards who works in 12-hour shifts, at least, he carries weapons and will be present if anyone comes to rob me,” he explained.

But that did not mean the guards were any better trained than the policemen, warned Islam. “The policemen though aren’t very professional; they have spent some time in training even if at the beginning of service. Most of the guards, on the other hand, are simply picked up, handed weapons and sent to work.”

He said most of the private security guards in Karachi were from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, especially from tribal areas and worked on minimum wages. “If someone pays Rs. 12,000 to a security company, the latter keeps its commission while passing on between Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 9,000 to the employee,” he said.

Police impersonation

The actual number of private security personnel might even be higher since Islam pointed out that the number of private firms were operating independently without getting licensed. They are usually the ones providing the highest-paid cadre of security guards whose uniforms and personnel emulate the style of Sindh Police’s elite force.

Though APSAA regulations required all the guards to wear blue uniforms with the names of firms imprinted clearly on the front, a large number of the ‘elite’ security guards had been observed – often hired by high-ranking officers, even those of the government, for their personnel security.

“That’s a blatant violation of our regulations and emulation of law-enforcement agency by private security firms is illegal,” said Col. Islam. “Though we report such companies to the Sindh Home Department for the cancellation of their licenses, it seldom takes action.”

However, this claim was refuted by the Home Secretary, Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi who claimed that several companies had been issued show-cause notices by the Home Department. “A large number of these firms are operated by retired army personnel but they should follow the regulations,” he said.

However, he did not mention anything about cancelling any security firm’s license.

Outside help

Given the sensitive situation of the city the presence of Sindh Rangers is felt quite prominently, especially after the latest crackdown on terrorists and criminals which began in September 2013.

According to the Rangers spokesperson, there were between 7,000 and 10,000 Rangers personnel in Karachi. However, they operated independently or provided assistance to the police in conducting raids and making arrests when requested, he said.

Earlier this year in May, a government committee, set up to review the security situation in the province and led by the member of Sindh Assembly Owais Muzaffar Hashmi, had decided to recruit 10,000 policemen and created3,000 more vacancies for establishing a Special Elite Force.

Police Chief Jamalialso confirmed that around 3,000 vacancies had been created for the Special Elite Force and the Force had planned to hire 1,000 more women constables.

Karachi Operation backlash

On the other hand, the city police faced a severe backlash from the ongoing operation in Karachi against terrorists and criminals.

As many as 140 policemen have died only this year in a number of gun and bomb attacks carried out on off-duty policemen and patrol contingents.

In January 2014, the city’s top anti-terror police officer, Chaudhry Aslam was killed in a bomb attack when he was on his way to work.

In February 2014, an explosion targeted a police bus near the Razzaqabad Police Training College in Shah Latif Town, killing 13 policemen and injuring 47 others.

Both attacks were claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

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