Punjab Elite Police: Counter-terrorism force or politician protector?
LAHORE: The Punjab government was dissolved on Wednesday, but the Sharif family continues to enjoy security provided by the province’s Elite Police, an institution meant to counter terrorism.
But it’s not just the Sharifs – members of the Punjab Elite Police Force are also working as security guards for politicians of both Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Pakistan Peoples party (PPP).
Official data available to Dawn.com claims that out of the 963 elite police commandoes in Lahore, around 70 per cent have been deployed with VIPs to provide them security cover.
Of the remaining 333 elite commandoes who are not assigned to protect VIPs, most are on permanent leave or enrolled in training courses. This leaves a grand total of around 100 to protect the citizens of Lahore from terrorism.
On top of the force’s priority list is Nawaz Sharif, chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The party head has around 100 commandoes and five special security vehicles at his disposal, around the clock.
According to a high-ranking police official, Nawaz is not entitled to this much security after the dissolution of the Punjab government. Technically, he should only have access to two security vehicles and a maximum of 12 police security personnel in the name of security.
Shahbaz, meanwhile, has 95 elite police commandoes and a number of elite police vehicles at his disposal, even after the completion of his provincial government’s five year tenure. The Punjab chief minister’s first wife, Nusrat Shahbaz, has 11 elite security personnel assigned to her along with one car for their transportation. His second wife, Tehmina Durrani, has access to 18 elite cops along with a vehicle – and another 18 cops for her house situated in Gulberg. Significantly, the data provided to Dawn.com outlined the details of the elite force’s personnel alone – however, the politicians have also been provided security by other law enforcement agencies Punjab’s former chief minister, Dost Muhammad Khosa also continues to enjoy the security of six elite police personnel, while father, the former senior adviser to the Punjab chief ministers, has nine security personnel members assigned to him.
Interestingly, the former Punjab government has also provided elite force security cover to former Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice, Khawaja Muhammad Sharif.
Former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and family still have 21 elite security guards and two vehicles around the clock at their disposal, while former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s family has one elite vehicle and 13 security personnel – although this number was the result of an increase following the kidnapping of Salmaan’s son, Shahbaz Taseer.
Similarly, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, along with Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and his son, former MPA Moonis Elahi, have security cover from the elite force.
Significantly, the data provided to Dawn.com outlined the details of the elite force’s personnel alone – however, the politicians have also been provided security by other law enforcement agencies. Many who are assigned elite commandoes without vehicles have access to other police vehicles for their transportation.
The head of the Lahore Operations wing, Rai Tahir, said a list is being made of deployed elite commandoes and other cops and that they will soon withdraw security from all those who are not entitled to it. However, those who have serious threats will remain entitled to security cover, the DIG concluded.
Former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that Shahbaz is still the chief minister since an interim set up has not come into place yet. He claimed that present and former chief ministers and prime ministers are entitled to this level of security.
Responding to a query on the security provided to the Sharif family, Sanaullah said that the Chaudhry brothers themselves (like the Sharifs) are entitled to this security as the former chief minister and prime minister. He added that after Taseer was kidnapped, authorities have taken more preventive measures to prevent such incidents, which is why its up to their discretion to whom they provide security.
“Elite police is also a part of the security (apparatus) and they have been deployed with those who have terrorism threats,” the former law minister concluded.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM APR 24, 2014