LAHORE: Though trained in counterterrorism, Lahore’s Elite Police personnel are doing exactly what their name suggests – protecting the city’s elite.
In fact, their focus seems on protecting three political families in the city – considered the super elite in political circles. The strength of the force formed to assist regular police in dealing with terrorism is 945. Out of these, 685 are deployed with the Sharifs, the Gilanis and the Chaudhries. Of the remaining 260, only 105 are deployed for regular duties - that is, safeguarding the lives and properties of nine million people living in Lahore. The remaining 155 are deployed at various jobs at the Elite Police Force Training School, Elite Police data says.
Meanwhile, the mandate of the force established in 1997- 1998 by Mian Shabaz Sharif during his first tenure as chief minister of Punjab, is assisting regular police in situations that require specific expertise, such as high-risk searches, counterterrorism, raids against highprofile criminals and rescue operations. In 2004, VIP escort duty was added to the force’s mandate. The Shahbaz Sharif government still takes pride in the institution as was obvious by Sharif’s statements at the passing- out parade of the twelfth training course of the school.
According to a handout issued by DGPR Punjab on May 5, Sharif said that the Elite Police was conceived and established by the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government and now the force works actively to protect the lives and property of citizens and “bravely combats anti-state elements.” Sharif also blamed the previous government of Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi for damaging the force by appointing its personnel for the security of high-profile people instead of focusing on curbing crime.
He added that after coming to power, the PML N leadership had reinvigorated the Elite Police and arranged quality training for its personnel with the help of the Pakistan Army. Now they could carry out duties according to force’s mandate, the chief minister claimed. In the current fiscal year, the Punjab government allocated Rs324.17 million for the force’s operating expenditures, a more than 100 per cent increase from 2008-2009 when the budget was Rs146.76 million.
The government also allocated Rs170 million for the provision of state-of-the-art training to the force’s personnel in this year, a budgetary document said. But the question remains whether the force is doing what it is supposed to. Of the 67 vehicles owned by the force, 20 are deployed with the Sharifs, eight with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s family, five with the Chaudharies, 10 are off the road and four are deployed with other VIPs.
Two hundred and forty eight personnel are deployed for the protection of the Sharifs, including 71 with Shahbaz Shairf, 58 at Raiwind, 55 with Nawaz Sharif, 24 with Hamza Shahbaz, six with Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law MNA Captain (retired) Safdar Mehmood, seven with Shahbaz Sharif’s son Salman Shahbaz, nine with Imran Yousaf (nephew), 10 with Shahbaz Sharif’s wife and eight at her Gulburg residence. Meanwhile, 71 personnel are deployed with the prime minister’s family members, including 20 with his wife, 28 with his sons Abdul Qadir, Haider and Moosa, six with Qasim Gilani, 10 with his daughter and seven with the PM himself.
And 59 personnel are deployed with the Chaudharies of Gujrat, including 22 with Chaudhary Shujaat, eight with his son Shafey Hussain, 22 with Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi and seven with his son Moonis Elahi. Then 41 are deployed with Governor Salman Taseer, 33 on American Consulate duty, 13 with Dosti Bus, five with Shah Zain Bugti, 13 with IGP Tariq Saleem Dogar, 16 at the Central Police Office (CPO), 10 with minister Raja Riaz Ahmed, 13 with minister Dost Muhammad Khosa, 10 with advisor to the CM, Zulfiqar Ahmed Khosa, 15 with the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, nine with Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary’s family.
Five are deployed at the gates of the Elite Training School in Baidian, 24 in other districts with prominent political figures, 28 are instructors, 46 are at special duty at the CPO and 23 are with the force’s AIG. A senior police officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that in addition, 550 regular police officials are also deployed with politicians, religious leaders, civil, police and judicial officials in the city. On the other hand, according to police records, the total strength of the city’s regular police is 25,610.
This equals one policeman for every 351 people. Members of the Elite Force are trained for six months by the Special Service Group in personal combat, martial arts, crowd control, closequarters operations, and reconnaissance. When contacted for comments, the force’s AIG Kalb-i- Abbas refused to say anything about the force’s mandate.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.