Private security guard companies continue to operate in a legal black hole, as key legislation meant to regulate the industry more strictly remains pending.
Worryingly, the government has been silent on the matter.
Sources within the fast-expanding industry say that the regulatory laws do not have the relevant clauses to keep them in check. This provides security companies with many advantages, especially when it comes to dealing with penalties or restrictions imposed by the provincial home departments.
“Why would we complain that the government is sleeping on the issue when we ourselves are at an advantage,” said one leading private security company owner.
The All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (Apsaa) General Secretary Col (retd) Tauqirul Islam admitted that “quite frankly, at present, private security guard companies in the country are operating under the law of the jungle.”
What he meant was that the provincial ordinances, such as the Sindh Private Security Agencies Ordinance 2000, which were promulgated during the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, have inadequate clauses to keep a strict check on and penalise the security companies for any wrongdoing.
“The situation is the same in all the other provinces, where the companies are operating only through no-objection certificates (NOC) issued from the federal interior ministry and the general standard operating procedures that come along with it,” he said.
A businessperson or a group that intends to establish a private security company has to first approach the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), which registers it after all legal formalities are met under the Companies Ordinance 1984. After the registration, the SECP asks the ministry of interior to grant an NOC that is obtained after clearance is given by all the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
However, this NOC is not enough to operate in a province unless a licence is granted by the respective provincial home departments, which continues to be done under the old ordinances.
Islam, however, disputed the notion that bodies such as Apsaa were not concerned about the law since this is in the interest of the security companies.
“In fact, in Sindh, we drafted a new law in coordination with the home department which suggested tighter controls on our industry, but unfortunately it remains pending at the provincial law ministry since May 2009,” he said.
He added that the association was aware of the need for changes in the law in all other provinces as well and once the draft gets approved in Sindh, it would be replicated in all other provinces.
Former Apsaa chairman Maj (retd) Munir Ahmed also said that a new law proposal was drafted and sent to the law ministry that never saw the light of the day. However, Sindh Law Secretary Ghulam Nabi Shah said he was not aware of any such draft sent to his ministry.
Sindh Prosecutor General Shahdat Awan, however, clarified that the 17th Amendment gave blanket protection to all Musharraf-era ordinances issued between 1999 and 2003 such as the Sindh Private Security Agencies Ordinance 2001 under Article 270AA. “The old ordinance, whether adequate or not, still stands to regulate the industry and has not lapsed,” he said.
According to Apsaa, there are at least 500 security companies operating in the country, out of which 300 are registered with the association.
Federal Additional Interior Secretary Shahid Hamid was asked to give his official response on the issue, but despite initial promises to give details, did not respond to the queries. Newly posted Additional Secretary Sindh Home Department Sohail Shah said he would need time to check on the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.
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