Sunday, June 13, 2010


Private Security Guards
(Ata khan, Karachi)
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Do they really keep you safe?

Security guards are everywhere; in your supermarket, favorite eating places, even at your office. But do they really keep you safe? The first and foremost duty of the state is to safeguard the honor, lives and property of its citizens. But in our country the state is not fulfilling this important aspect of its dominion. So there has been mushroom growth of private security companies all over the country during the last couple of decades.

But the in our society there security guards are introducing high risk for the property and the life. It has been observed that at the most business places, the guards have not asked customers to state their business before allowing them to enter but merely have opened the gate to allow cars to enter and exit the compound. Sometimes the guards were busy, sitting in the shade, chatting to each other while sipping drinks. Or, a guard was sound asleep with his feet on the desk, log book safely on the table. Are these the people trusted with keeping people and buildings safe? Do they understand their role?

The number of security companies is increasing day by day and are almost entirely all run by the retired army officers in addition to those run by the ex-servicemen trusts. They employee tens of thousands of retired soldiers who are underpaid with long duration of work, but the companies probably charge their clients two to three times higher than the wages paid. It has been learnt that most of the private security agencies are not good pay masters, compelling their guards to resort to illegal ways for their survival.

It is also noted that the retired officers have exploited the needs of retired soldiers to have jobs although the government has announced the minimum wage for the labour to be 5000/-. But it is not ensuring that the security guards are paid a fair wage and are adequately insured. Many people think that the private security companies have now started looting, with even higher charges during security duties in the wake of growing concerns over the law and order situation. Recently a survey report revealed that dozens of private security companies are taking advantage of the government’s failure to ensure security and have increased their rates. It is also evident that most of the guards provided by the companies to people are untrained and equipped with defective arms. Private security companies are bound to train their guards or heir ex-army men. They claim that they hire only ex-army men who are already trained to use weapons, but in reality they are not following these rules.

Reports are made regarding involvement of some private security agencies’ guards in criminal activities as a threat to the society. A few of the security guards of private security companies were involved in street crimes but police was failed to take action against them. There is an increase in street crimes and people believe that guards of these companies are involved in these crimes. It has been observed that many security guards have become a threat to the lives of those who had hired them for safety and protection.

Now the government is trying to check such activity with a regulatory body to check misuse of the authority being enjoyed by private security agencies’ guards. Most of the private security agencies have registered themselves, but most of them are stated to be dormant and their managements have no check on the activities of their guards who had been provided arms and uniform.

It Karachi statistics underline the gravity of the situation; private security guards outnumber police officers in Karachi by a ratio of nearly three-to-one. According to official estimates, there are 80,000 security guards in the metropolis as opposed to 29,000 sanctioned police officers. Observers say that in a few years, the number of private security guards will exceed that of police officers throughout the country.

Serious thought must be given to regulating Pakistan’s nearly 600 private security companies. The home department must keep an eye on the recruitment and training methods of security firms to make sure they are hiring capable people and equipping them with the requisite knowledge and tools. It is also troubling that many security companies are not verifying their guards’ particulars with Nadra. The requirement that guards be posted at a bank register through the area police station is also not being met. Given the weak enforcement of the rules by the government, banks and other institutions that employ private guards greater scrutiny must be exercised at the time of hiring.

The security officer is defined as an individual who is "licensed to provide service for the protection of personal property and prevention of theft or the unlawful taking of property", adding that security officers were to "maintain order", as well as act as ambassadors on behalf of the companies for which they work. To maintain the high level of security continued training and upgrading of their skills is necessary.

There is a greater role for private security companies provided they address issues such as accountability, professionalism and training. There also needs to be greater collaboration between security companies and the Police Force, as the latter cannot "provide all the protection and enforcement necessary to maintain safe and orderly communities".

In the war on terror private security plays a key role in our society. It is also the responsibility of the government to provide the security for its people and to form the necessary legislation and regulatory authority to check and balance the performance of the private security companies.

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