Tracing the origins: Guns and guards - the dreaded Gs of DHA

Published: May 17, 2014
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Armed guards, most of them without proper uniforms, travelling with their weapons pointed at other vehicles have become a common sight in DHA and Clifton areas. PHOTO: FILE

Armed guards, most of them without proper uniforms, travelling with their weapons pointed at other vehicles have become a common sight in DHA and Clifton areas. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

As the number of guns and guards in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) increase, The Express Tribune traces the origins of this culture of weapons in the residential scheme.

According to older residents of the neighbourhood, the trend did not start until the 1990s. Several residents started hiring private guards at their homes when a wave of kidnappings hit the area. Young men from well-to-do families were being kidnapped from DHA, recalled security analyst Ikram Sehgal. “Before that, people would only depend on the chowkidars for protection.”

Asad Kizilbash from the Association of Defence Residents, who has lived in this area for two decades, remembers the time when guards would be posted only at banks. The trend may have started due to kidnappings but, as violence escalated in DHA, so did the need to rely on private security. Nowadays, militancy in other parts of the city has affected this area too, Sehgal added.

The co-founder of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), Jameel Yusuf, also attributed the origins of guards in DHA to the kidnappings. He added, however, that these incidents were brought to a halt by their committee. “House burglaries and robberies were taking place,” he said. “Residents were installing alarm systems and also posting guards at their houses.”

After the residents, the next wave of guards and guns came with elected politicians and other influential people living in the area. Most of the politicians opted, however, to hire guards without uniforms from their clan instead of relying on private security companies.

But back then, there were strict rules on keeping private guards, said Yusuf. Between 2000 and 2002, Moinuddin Haider, who was the interior minister at that time, placed a ban on keeping guards without uniforms. “Only guards in uniforms were allowed,” he said. “The ban also prohibited the display of weapons, and arms were not to be seen from outside the vehicle’s windows,” he added, explaining that he did not want other people on the roads to feel harassed.

“Keep guards without uniforms were prohibited because they are the family’s own people,” Yusuf explained. “Unlike the guard’s provided by the companies that are governed by certain laws, the personal guards are uncontrolled, untrained, and have no identification.”

Nearly a decade later, private guards could be seen at almost every household in the area and accompanying people in most vehicles. Former IG Afzal Shigri said the main reason is the violence in the city. “Businessmen and influential people are getting extortion and kidnapping threats,” he said, adding that the worsening law and order in the city has made the rich hire their own private guards, and not be dependent on the police alone.

Another factor behind the increasing gun and guard culture is to show power and status. “Hundreds of arms licences have been issued over the last few years and that has significantly affected crime levels,” said Shigri. “There used to be a proper system of issuing arms licences to anyone but not anymore.”

As adults procure more and more weapons, their children are growing up in an environment where guns are common. Sehgal said this is a dangerous trend.

Psychiatrist Dr Syed Wasif Ali at the Ziauddin Hospital said that teenagers from families that possess guns and have guards have become accustomed to them. “Kids are not scared of guns anymore; instead they feel gratified handling them,” he said. “The video games in which teenagers are given points for killing people are also leading to a dangerous and violent trend.”

Types of guards

According to security analyst Sehgal, there are two types of guards: stationary and mobile. Most of the guards hired by families are stationary ones, who are only supposed to be stationed at the houses and are not allowed to move around.

“Static guards are now being used around by people and their children to show off,” he pointed out. “If guards move around in vehicles, the person using them and the security company are supposed to seek permission from the police. However, this rule is being violated.”

Referring to the recent killing of Sulaiman Lashari on Khayaban-e-Shamsheer, Sehgal admitted there is little hope left when the police are breaking the law. “Why does a police officer posted in rural Sindh have police guards in the city?” he wondered.

Yusuf blames the parents. “They [parents] should manage the guards,” he said. “Only armed guards in blue uniforms should be allowed. They should train the guards and control their children.”

Cantonment Board Clifton member Aziz Suharwardy complained how every other street has armed guards or police guards carrying Kalashnikov. “We have raised the issue a lot of times and the DHA should take action.”

Those who are forced to keep guards claimed they do so due to the law and order situation. “The main purpose of keeping guards is for security,” said a politician and landlord from Khairpur, who did not want to be named. “The guards escort my children when they travel at night to protect them from criminals,” he said, adding that muggings have become very common these days.

According to him, tribal clashes are another reason why families who belong to various clans keep guards. He dismissed, however, that keeping guards is part of any culture. “If it was a cultural thing, then why was it not present years ago and why has it increased now,” he asked.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2014.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (17)

  • Khan
    May 17, 2014 - 9:57AM

    It never happens in DHA Lahore.

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  • Timorlane
    May 17, 2014 - 11:18AM

    @Khan: because corruption party doesn’t rule Punjab

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  • bash gul
    May 17, 2014 - 1:01PM

    I have lived and worked for 35 years in the middle east and if a guard on a pick up points his gun at me, I will not hesitate to shoot back between their eyes. Who do these people think they are, some superior humans. Why don’t they follow the rules issued by the Interior ministry? They are just zombies. They are a threat to other passing by vehicles and pedestrians. These people of the elite class with their guards showing off are the same people ruling the city and responsible for the law and order and crimes committed in the city. So many criminal cases and killings caused by these illiterate and untrained guards. Hats off to Lahore, where I visited and roamed around the city in the wee hours with my kids.

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  • Sumsum
    May 17, 2014 - 1:20PM

    Security is a concern but I’m afraid it has much more to do with status and ego. I think the only solution is to laugh in the face of the little nobodies who feel the need to go around with armed guards. Only ridicule will stop them.

    Recommend

  • shahid
    May 17, 2014 - 1:24PM

    Wow, what confidence in place where his party government is ruling the province, Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza of PPP driving the Land Cruiser and sitting in passenger seat a senior police officer of sindh government; and openly flouting the rules and making lives of all other peace loving citizens, miserable and risky, as the goons on the top of this Land cruiser look like already drowning in power and trigger happy; Police guards behind the land cruiser look helplessly impotent; What a show of lawlessness;

    Recommend

  • Salman
    May 17, 2014 - 1:46PM

    @Timorlane:
    I’d doubt that. N.S with assets over $2 billion are never acquired without corruption.

    Recommend

  • observer
    May 17, 2014 - 2:58PM

    @khan….because Ranger D.G. and Police chief of Karachi..sleeping ,for the last 9 months karachi under operation..this picture should be shown to P.M and Ch. Nisar

    Recommend

  • Rumormonger
    May 17, 2014 - 3:12PM

    I can see Zulfiqar Mirza in the drivers seat in the pic. @Timorlane is right. DHA should sue these people rather than suing Bahria for making underpasses and flyovers.

    Recommend

  • pro bono publico
    May 17, 2014 - 3:16PM

    @Khan: Obviously PPP & MQM does not rule Punjab, which is ruled by another corrupt family-owned party, the Nawaz League.

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Rizwan Ali
    May 17, 2014 - 5:40PM

    Well focus by write, very important issue, still the Lords,Politicians, Big Government officials, enjoy , making innocent public in harassment, showing weapons openly on the street..
    We are still living in stone ages, why we need security guards, the Police and government agencies doing what, now they have every things, new cars, weapons, good salary, all benefits,
    Still they can not give safe living to popole, so shamefulRecommend

  • Baba Ji
    May 17, 2014 - 6:42PM

    Imran Khan will set everything right … No ?

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  • Irshad KhanI
    May 17, 2014 - 8:20PM

    Wadera culture i.e. Jagirdari Nizam and Sardari Nizam is now pre-dominent in Karachi.

    Recommend

  • Irshad Khan
    May 17, 2014 - 8:40PM

    Sardari Nizam and Jagirdari Nizam is taking roots in Karachi while expanding from rural areas.

    Recommend

  • jawad
    May 17, 2014 - 10:22PM

    Guards displaying weapons should be illegal in Karachi and violators should be sent to jail together with their “masters”.

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  • May 17, 2014 - 10:37PM

    There IS an entrenched gun culture. A lot of male children and adults alike worship guns. Some enjoy abusing power, instead using them for self-defence or responsible protection. They don’t just pose with them. They dream of firing TT’s/AK47’s, and at times get opportunity to.

    Examples of high-profile personalities include Shahid Afridi’s brother who, despite criticism, recklessly celebrates with aerial firing. Hamid Gul believed guns were men’s ornaments. Since rise of anti-Pak militancy, he now calls for some gun control. Zulfiqar Mirza, is proud of greatly increasing the no. of gun licenses handed out to ‘patriots’, code for political/ethnic loyalists or personal criminal thugs.

    Some psycho VIP kids use bodyguards to assault commoners for imagined slights, to impress others (like foreign friends) or just for fun, creating societal fear. Then there’s low/poor class criminals, political thugs, militants, tribals, etc. In one rare experience at a Pakistani wedding in Canada, before a slideshow, a non-Pakistani friend made a negative stereotype joke, saying he wouldn’t be surprised if there was a slide of the groom with a gun. Ironically, of all the other fine non-stereotypical Pak weddings he could have attended, he was proven right and saw a gun pose pic.Recommend

  • sam
    May 19, 2014 - 10:08PM

    Some of the points mentioned by the writer might be relevant but the picture chosen singling out one person was wrong, biased and unnecessary. There are times in life when arms must be taken up for good to prevail and strength be shown to make a point. Unless we want to become a society that’s spineless and afraid to speak out.

    Recommend

  • gun defender.
    May 20, 2014 - 1:05PM

    I completely agreeing flaunting guns while driving in Karachi is not the right way as it makes everyone around the vehicle uncomfortable. Guards should be trained in order to deal with the situation and should be uniformed. However we must remember the govt has failed to provide security to its ppl in karachi. Only yesterday someone i know was mugged at sunset blvd. It was a frightening experience as the gun was kept on his head while him and his entire family in the vehicle were being mugged in broad daylight. After mugging he calmly crossed the road and sat on his bike. Everyone around stood and watched. The guards posted nearby simply watched. The family has now hired guards. Keeping a vigilant trained guard makes you a difficult target for the mugger. He would instead choose a more soft and vulnerable target rather than taking the risk of being shot. We all have to live in this city and keeping guards is simply adapting to the situation in Karachi. Rise in demand of locally modified bullet proof vehicles also explains alot. DHA officials instead of complaining should increase patrol and stop crime in their areas. Zamzama & Sunset blvd are just two of the most common hotbeds of crime in the area.

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