PRIVATE SECURITY ON GUARD

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Aug 03 - 09, 2009

As law and order situation gets worse cost of security to defend oneself against its fallouts increases. It is perhaps a phenomenon world over to be defensive instead of proactive. The latter can save huge money spent across the world to erect defensive shield as security measures nonetheless. Rooting out root causes of social disturbances is sufficient to make it happen. Unless the difference of have and have-nots is not removed and income inequity reduced, this is not possible.

Here is the dichotomy as law enforcers and security guards believe firmly that their alertness is itself a precaution. For law enforcers whose association with the state needs no description in especially our part of the world where policing implies overburdened range of government responsibilities, this claim is of suspicious nature because of lack of such steps government takes to maintain law and order. A possible step could be shedding of or sharing some of the responsibilities of maintaining law and order with the private security agencies, commented Rashid Ali Malik Chairman All Pakistan Security Agencies Association.

If government indulges in tasks that can be relegated to other parties, then it might loose grip on targets, said a retried Brigadier of Pakistan Army in an interview. It is usual, said he adding world over private security is gradually supplementing police. Private security guards are not in competition of law enforcers but they supplement the state's guards. They are second defence line. This contingent has private guards exceeding figure of 300,000 in Pakistan. Giving an example, he said government of USA had handed over few jails and airports completely under control of private security forces. Can you believe, the brigadier exclaims, that there has been over 300 percent growth in private security business in USA after 9-11? 'In Pakistan, the rate was not less than 400 percent.'

Before 9-11 there were total 50 private security agencies operating across Pakistan, now there are about 250 companies. The operation of private security agencies is prospering across the world, he answers to a question and adding "to this account you can say the business is a product of not-so-good law and order condition". According to him, the demand of private security guards is relatively more in Karachi than in any other city. 'Now, it is on increase in Lahore and other areas of Punjab.' In last thirty years, the law and order situation has become worst.

There appeared two watersheds in the progress of this sector in Pakistan. Post 9-11 age was different as it increased national security risks. The business of private security agencies started to thrive on to this effect, he recounted. Next boom came after licences of agencies were issued on political basis at the edge of 2006. 'Remember, there was serious political instability at that time,' he said. Not all private security agencies operating in Pakistan are members of our association, he said and adding this sometimes creates trouble for us.

The APSAA has 100 members while federal government has issued licences to over 200. "Being member of the association the agency has to adhere to our code of conducts, but we could not be responsible for acts of non-members," he said referring to illegal operation of private security companies. Unfortunately, there are over 50 illegal private security companies in Pakistan, operating with the connivance of law enforcers, he revealed. The sleuths in these companies are not trained properly and are themselves security risk. The illegal companies are least concerned about identity of recruits. These companies are in contract of mainly informal sector and moneychangers. 'I can say with surety that 50 percent of guards do not exercise routinely in firing range.' Basically, the government has not made it mandatory for companies to become member of APSAA, which is duly licensed by director general trade organization, he observed.

He said recruits were mainly hailed from Punjab and frontiers. The upsurge in security businesses in those areas has caused shortage of workforce in Karachi. Talking about training and development, he said first of all we were short of trained personnel. We train raw talents in firing range. Is there any other training they have to undergo? "The association is working to launch other training and development programmes like personality grooming," he answered. Military personnel are suitable for this job, which requires certain decorum. Fortunately, Pakistan has a unique opportunity of taking services of military personnel majority of them, according to him, are serviceable in their 30s for private security agencies.

People take services of private security guards to protect their lives, properties, and honours. It is like contingency preparation to cope up with untoward situation, said Brig (R) Rashid who is also running his multi-functional private security agency, Security2000 with 10 branch offices across Pakistan. Taken titanic lesson as an awareness bid, his office interior portrays vividly naval accessories on sidewall beside staircase. "I want to promote needs of private security as precautionary measures to insulate oneself against colossal unpredictable loss, titanic might have avoided before smashing in to iceberg if it had prepared for risk," said the owner of Security2000, which has befitting slogan "we will not let you sink". The company engages in basic guards' deployment, executive protection, security consultancy service, and a not-so-popular detective service to keep surveillance on violation of intellectual property rights. Brig (R) Rashid Malik says brand protection is a service company provides to detect counterfeiting of products of Engro, ICI, Abott, Unilever, etc., which are the company's prime clients. I think now privacy of individual is waning, opined chairman APSAA referring to new developments.