LAHORE - Hundreds of powerful persons are seriously upset in the Punjab province since they are deprived of police guards, a privilege that used to differentiate them from ordinary Pakistanis.

Thousands of police guards who were escorting unauthorised individuals were ordered to report back to the headquarters, thanks to Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar for taking notice of the situation.

Last week, Punjab Police Inspector General Arif Nawaz Khan informed the country’s top judge that at least 4,610 police officials were withdrawn from security duties of non-entitled individuals. Earlier, they were enjoying duties with influential individuals including politicians, lawyers, judges, and journalists with all government benefits.  

IGP Khan stated before a two-judge bench that these officials were deployed on security of 297 politicians, 537 civil administration officers, 54 media persons and media houses, and 23 lawyers.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan was hearing a notice regarding provision of police security to unauthorized persons. The court was also informed that some 49 police mobiles were also withdrawn from such security duty.

At this, the bench observed that it only wanted that security should be withdrawn from individuals who were not entitled. However, the security should be provided to individuals who face security challenge as per government’s policy. The bench adjourned further hearing and sought a detailed report from the police authorities within two weeks.

According to police, at least 1,853 individuals including political, religious and police high-ups were provided police guards. As many as 1,347 policemen had been deployed with 297 politicians. Similarly, at least 296 policemen were guarding 250 religious leaders.

Although the unauthorized persons are “deprived” of additional police protocol yet many VIPs and VVIPs are being provided extraordinary police security.

According to a report published in The Nation in 2016, more than 100 latest model elite police vehicles were permanently attached with “very important personalities” in Lahore.

No less than 200 constable drivers and hundreds of elite police commandoes are also deployed with the influential individuals to escort their convoys on city roads in addition to 103 latest model vehicles.

The beneficiaries include Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and their families. The other VIPs are Punjab IGP, PCB Chairman Najam Sethi, family of ex-Governor, family of ex-PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, Imdad Ullah Bosal besides the Iranian, Chinese, and US consulates.

“At least 17 latest model vehicles of the elite police force are permanently attached with the prime minister and the chief minister to escort their families in Lahore,” the report stated

As per police record, eight vehicles of elite police force are permanently deployed at Raiwind Farm House of the prime minister, 11 are deployed at 96-H Block Model Town and three are deployed at 180-H Block Model Town. Two vehicles of elite police force are deployed at the IGP Office and the IB office in Lahore.

At least 67 vehicles of Lahore district, 24 vehicles from out districts and 12 vehicles from the IGP Reserve Force or Quick Response Teams are deployed on such duties. Similarly, eight vehicles of elite police force are attached with the superior judiciary.

Three vehicles of elite police force are provided to DSP Elite, In-charge Elite and In-charge Monitoring. Some 15 vehicles are deployed at static points in Lahore that included Data Darbar, Kot Lakhpat Jail, anti-terrorism court, Lahore High court building, central police office, IB office, Aitchison College, Civil Secretariat, Chinese Consulate, and patrolling Qurban Police Lines.

Only, 12 vehicles are available for quick response teams which work in day and night shifts. However, there was not a single elite police vehicle available for general duty. As a matter of fact, the entire elite police force is deployed on the “security-cum-protocol” of the VVIPs and VIPs in Lahore.

According to a police officer, the VVIPs and VIPs should be given priority with regard to deployment of security staff and vehicles. “This is our responsibility to protect the ruling elite first. If something happens to them, we will be held accountable. So, we have to keep our skin safe,” the officer commented during an informal chat.

Insiders say, only 500 personnel of the Elite Force are providing security cover to the Sharif family alone. More than 350 Elite Force men are at the disposal of Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif. 

Currently, there are more than 6,000 personnel of the Punjab elite force. Thousands of elite police guards are deployed on security duty of influential persons and their families including the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Governor, Speakers, senior judges, bureaucrats, and other powerful individuals.

Not enough, elite police commandoes from Lahore are frequently sent to other districts of the Punjab province to provide security-cum-protocol to the influential individuals. The Elite police force has virtually become a protocol division. The prime responsibility of the comparatively well-trained force is only to escort the ‘under threat’ ruling elite in the province.

In the past, Former Punjab IGP Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera had ordered a similar action but he had to take U-turn when police high-ups were snubbed by the political elite over withdrawal of elite police guards.

Sukhera had ordered his department to withdraw police guards deployed on the security of VIPs so that they could be deputed on operational duties. But, he had to withdraw his own orders within months due to strong political pressure.

As per statistics collected from the Punjab police and the Home Department, some 75 per cent strength of the total Elite Police Force in Lahore has been employed to ensure ‘foolproof security’ for the VIPs of Punjab. According to a retired Inspector General of Police, the trend of protocol duties has been destroying the prestige of the Elite Police Force.

In Punjab, many elite police guards are also deployed at the residences of leading political leaders and bureaucrats in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Murree, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Sargodha, Sahiwal and, and other districts. Sometime the elite personnel are also called from other districts for protocol duties in the provincial metropolis.