KARACHI: Already considered public enemies by some, private security companies are now under the watchful eye of the Sindh home department which has issued show cause notices to at least eight companies for their involvement in bank robberies and criminal offenses.
Following this development, a committee comprising officials of the home department was also constituted for inspection of the private security companies’ compliance with the Sindh Private Security Agencies Rules 2001. According to an official of the department, seven security companies were found violating the Rules 2011 and action has been initiated against them.
The show cause notices issued on Tuesday come as a positive development for those who have been demanding action against the ‘guard culture’ following a bank robbery and the murder of a 16-year-old boy - both in April.
Rs53 million were stolen from a bank and according to the staff at the scene of the crime, the private security guard posted at the bank was part of the gang of robbers carrying out the heist. At the end of the month, on April 27, Hamza Ahmed was allegedly shot dead by the security guard of another boy, Mohammed Shoaib, in the Defence Housing Authority, for which the trial has already started.
Hiring and training private security
Private security guards provide security as bodyguards, night watchmen and gatekeepers to individuals, commercial entities and neighbourhoods.
“They [private security guards] act like puppets and have no idea of how to react in a critical situation,” said Anwar Hameed Khan, the manager of a private bank on II Chundrigarh. “Most of them don’t even know how to use the gun they carry,” he said while pointing to a guard in blue uniform standing outside the entrance of the bank’s building.
The general secretary of the All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA), Col. (Retd) Tauqir Islam, however, does not favour a vigorous, long period of training. “We don’t mean to train soldiers. A private security guard merely performs the services of a chowkidaar [gatekeeper],” said Islam.
Currently, around 243 private security companies are registered with the Sindh government and 170 of them are the members of APSAA.
Explaining the recruitment process of a private security guard, Islam said that applicants are asked to provide a copy of their national identity card along with proof of residence. APSAA then verifies the CNIC with NADRA. “In case the given residential address is outside Karachi, it is verified from the respective city,” explained the general secretary.
The recruits receive a 15-day training during which they are taught how to behave with clients and react in certain situations, in addition how to use the weapon they carry.
A group of trainees from different companies are taken to the Rangers’ firing range near the Super Highway to practice firing during their training period.
Jawed Khalil, 41, from Rahimyar Khan, who has been working as a security guard for the last 12 years, said that the guards are required to renew their training each year. According to Khalil, the guards are trained for three different scenarios - fire in the air to scare a miscreant, shoot him in the leg and if there is a threat to their life, shoot to kill in self-defence.
Safety first: How to open a security company
Private security companies in the country are operating under an administrative order issued by the Ministry of Interior in 1988, according to Masood & Masood (Corporate and Legal Consultants).
After getting approval under the said law, they are required to be registered with the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan under the Companies Ordinance, 1984. Following the registration, they obtain a no objection certificate (NoC) from the home ministry and then approach the concerned home department to operate in the province.
The general secretary of the All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA), Col. (Retd) Tauqir Islam, said that only those companies that have an NoC from the government and are registered with the SECP, receive the APSAA membership.
But their performance, by law, has to be monitored by the concerned police stations. Senior Superintendant of Police (SSP) Jam Zafarullah said that the concerned police stations were well informed of the security companies operating in the area and also maintained their record.
To a question on the legal status of security guards, he said, “The clearance (NoC) given by the home ministry is proof enough for us of their legal status.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.