We are told that the Karachi division of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has taken upon itself to put an end to the special security provisions given to the VIPs by launching a campaign after Eid.
This is welcome news for the people of Karachi who are sick and tired of the rising number of VIPs that they encounter on roads and in cordoned off streets where they live.
The party plans to organise seminars to make the public aware of the expenses incurred on this culture. It is a good exercise and the trend needs to be exposed.
What we have seen is that despite the change of governments, VIP culture continues to flourish in all parts of the country. In one recent clip, we saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leading a motorcade of 50 cars. It’s a shame.
Even our self-righteous interior minister leads long convoys as he passes through Karachi, bringing traffic to a halt and creating miles of traffic jams. He has the gall then to go on the floor of the house and claim that such actions don’t waste public funds.
In Karachi, a sizeable number of police cars and policemen are deputed for VIP duty, which means that all day they escort the so-called VIPs as they travel on the city roads and also provide protection to the VIPs in their houses.
Quoting a newspaper report, PTI Karachi chapter president Ali Zaidi disclosed that 155 police mobile vans and 4,000 Sindh police personnel were performing security duties for the VIPs and were guarding their residences even when these VIPs were travelling abroad.
Such police deployment is also seen as a status symbol. In most instances, the persons who get this protection are rich enough to hire private guards but the facility of free policemen is too hard to resist.
If a survey is conducted of Karachi’s VIP security culture, it will bring to light some very interesting facts. For example, it is not only the number of police vehicles which are given for VIP duty that is a cause for concern but also that those vehicles that are in the best shape are given for this service.
The vehicles left at the disposal of the police station are possibly those that are in the worst condition. That is why we see that the police arriving late or not at all when they are needed the most. These cars don’t even have enough petrol at times.
What is more interesting is that the so-called VIPs who are accorded this service in most instances do not even qualify for it. The Sindh home department, which plays an important liaison between the political government and the police, continues to make exemptions and exceptions. These are done on the express orders of the CM or his deputies to accord police protocol to one or the other.
The VIPs include elected representatives, retired and serving civil servants, members of different arms of government, politicians in and out of power, religious figures, businessmen, friends and family of the party leader, the CM and other ministers, government advisors, landlords who are close to the family of the CM and his ministers, party officials, workers. There is even one fortune-teller who is on VIP rolls.
Under the VIP culture, such personages get police protection, gun licences, various permits and exemptions, and the power to roam around the city and bully and harass innocent citizens at will. In a number of murders that have taken place over the past couple of years, police guards have been involved.
According to a report released by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat), the total police strength of Karachi stands at 26,504 policemen – a ratio of one policeman to 850 residents. This ratio is pathetic when compared to Lahore, which stands at one to 335, and New Delhi, which is at one to 290.
In short, VIP culture translates into getting access to government resources for free. This includes free cars and guards, free parking at charged spots, access to VIP lounges at airports and train stations, blocking seats on the national airline, and the list goes on. This is done at our cost and is a criminal waste of public resources. Good luck to PTI for exposing this rot.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.
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