In the first 59 days of this year, 68 people in Islamabad lost their cars to thieves, 51 houses were robbed; 34 people were mugged in the streets, and 54 were victims of thefts. All of these were preventable crimes and took place despite the presence of 50 police check-points scattered around the city.
Statistics on the performance of the capital’s police force shows they are lacking in numbers and planning, if not also will. For a city with a population close to 1.5 million, there are only 9,613 policemen. However, just 2,800 — barely a quarter of them — are actively fighting crime.
That is significantly less than the number reserved for VIP security. The security division has 3,552 police personnel at its disposal including the best of the lot from the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) to protect ministers and their families, party heads and foreign missions.
Of the 2,800 an even smaller number is out there chasing criminals, as a large number are performing administrative and clerical duties at police stations or ‘guarding’ the ineffective checkpoints 24/7.
In summary, Islamabad has over 3,500 cops protecting less than 1,000 people, while barely 2,000 were available to protect the lives and property of over a million citizens.
Most of the VIP-duty cops can share huge burden with their Operations division colleagues, if only they were redeployed.
Signs of that were shown recently, after most VIPs, particularly the battalion of cabinet ministers, went home on completion of the previous government’s term. Their former guards became completely idle, down from their previous partly-active status.
The security division decided to send the VIP cops to do their actual jobs — policing — and sent over 200 policemen including 75 ATS men to Operations. “Most of them were getting rusty, busy only in fetching tea for their colleagues in police stations,” said a senior Security Division officer. They were deployed at different points in the city to keep watch on suspicious activity. Some of them were deputed on election duty with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Yet, the move did not enhance the struggling operations division’s strength.
“This is also temporary. In another two months, once the new ministers and VIPs are in place, these policemen will be recalled by the security division,” said a police officer from one of the city’s four operations zones.
Just protecting VIPs in Islamabad was not what the police were hired and trained for. Their first job is to protect the city and its residents. Let the VIPs worry and manage their own security if they feel so vulnerable.
The interim government period offers a great opportunity for the police’s upper echelon to do right and recall all VIP cops to police stations.
Returning to their actual jobs would enhance the police’s strength in investigating crimes and catching the criminals involved in them. At present, very few investigators are available with the capital police. Still fewer are capable enough to increase the conviction rate, due to which most nabbed criminals are freed by courts for lack of evidence.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2013.