KARACHI, Aug 1: Amid growing challenges of policing and handling the city situation that ranged from militancy to targeted killings and street crimes to kidnap for ransom, the authorities seem more concerned about the security of senior officials, legislators, politicians and other ‘important personalities’ as the number of policemen deployed for the security of such individuals has risen from 4,500 in 2010 to more than 6,500, it emerged on Wednesday.
The situation is said to be disturbing for the city police hierarchy, which is mulling withdrawal of a ‘significant’ number of policemen carrying out security duty to depute them for regular policing, currently being handled with a mere 11,000 policemen.
More than half of the sanctioned strength of the key law-enforcement agency is carrying out either administrative jobs or guard duty to protect individuals.
“Till June 2010, there were some 4,500 policemen performing guard duty with different personalities on security grounds,” said an official. “At that time the Sindh police were spending more than Rs117 million from their regular budget under this head.
The number of policemen on such duty has now increased to 6,590 and the expenditure would also have surged proportionally.”
He said under the city police organisational structure, Karachi had been divided into two zones — Security Zones I and II — that served as a pool of policemen dedicated to serve different individuals.
“There are 1,891 policemen in Security Zone I and 3,911 in Security Zone II. Also, there is a foreign security cell with the strength of 788 policemen which is supposed to provide security to different foreign missions, consulates and diplomats,” he added.
In addition to manpower, the police department annual fuel budget was affected, as the personnel on guard duty use police vehicles and fuel while travelling with individuals, said the official.
While the Sindh government had increased the police department budget by more than 25 per cent from Rs30.47 billion to Rs38.44 billion this year, critics and senior officials said the increase would hardly bring a change to the overall performance of the city police amid growing spending on individuals’ security rather than regular policing.
“We are seriously planning the withdrawal of force from security duty,” said Iqbal Mahmood, the city police chief designated as additional inspector-general of Sindh police. “We have plans to raise Mohafiz force with around 2,000 personnel to handle the law and order situation in any part or district of the city.”
For experts and critics, acquiring services of policemen for personal security has more to do with a mindset than a genuine threat to the lives different individuals. They said the trend should come to an end once and for all.
“You can’t withdraw or cut that number gradually,” said Nazim F. Haji, the founding chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC). “Representatives of people or holders of public office should not feel so insecure and if they do so they should not expose that fear. One can’t expect security from insecure people,” he remarked.