Private Security


For many years, successive governments have tried to reform the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Pakistan. For the past decade they have also been trying to regulate private security companies which first came into operation in Pakistan in 1984 but really started proliferating since 1986. While this government must take credit for enacting Ordinances to purpose, no individual deserves more credit than the present Federal Minister for Interior, Lt Gen (Retd) Moinuddin Haider, who broke the bureaucratic logjam and kick-started the process five years ago when he was Governor Sindh under the PML (N) regime. Credit must also go to Mr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, present Sindh Finance Minister, who in the space of one short meeting erased most of the difficulties the draft Ordinance posed for a couple of years. Private security has made a solid contribution to nation-building as a significant support to the LEAs in maintaining law and order and reducing their workload. Moreover employment has been provided to khaki collar workers who would otherwise find it difficult to get jobs once they were over their service with the Armed Forces.

In a historical sense, private security has come a full circle. In a feudal society the concept of private security has not changed in thousands of years, in today’s modern world the same principles apply. Tribal chiefs, clan chiefs, etc paid private bodyguards out of their own pockets, it is the same today. Private security as an organized commercial entity came to Pakistan in the early 80s with a Joint Venture (JV) between a Pakistani and a US company, known primarily for its Cash-in-Transit (CIT) services. Between 1984 and 1986, there was a virtual monopoly of all private security in Pakistan by this one entity. As per the law of nature, the absolute domination of one single person over private security in Pakistan faded and despite his desperate underhand efforts through use of bureaucratic influence, by 1987 other companies had started to come on-stream. Today that foreign company is history in Pakistan. The number of letters this despicable individual wrote to government agencies against his competitors was not only crass commercial malfeasance but must be a world record in character assassination.

With a large body of blue collar workers in the country, particularly ex-servicemen, it is the government’s interest that the private sector creates jobs for this large work force. It is also in the government’s interest to ensure that rules are imposed on everyone according to the same standards. Private security not only provides the citizens with additional individual safeguards but is a force-multiplier for the economy in creating jobs at very small cost. The economic downturn over the past decade has dramatically increased unemployment in Pakistan. Where we needed increased job slots, industrial and commercial entities have been shedding both white and blue-collar jobs at an alarming rate. New businesses, even in the IT sector, have not been able to balance the shortages. The only bright spot in this overall economic gloom is the sustained development of the Services sector, perhaps the only one in the economy creating more jobs. The driving force for more jobs in this sector has been private security. Moreover, in contrast to the US$ 50000 in foreign exchange required to create one job in the manufacturing sector, it takes less than US$ 200 in equivalent Pakistan Rupees for a new employment slot in private security. Given also that at least 20000-30000 Servicemen, retire at an early age every year, particularly at the lower end of the scale, it is an economic necessity for them to supplement their meagre retirement pays to support their families. Only a very small percentage are skilled enough for white and blue-collar jobs, private security provides a distinct class of khaki-collar jobs. Moreover, unemployment creates law and order problems, whether in Pakistan or elsewhere, the perennially unemployed have no option but to resort to crime to feed their families. Private security companies in a very direct way prevent anarchy by offering dignified re-employment to those with the training and expertise to create anarchy. Retired ex-Servicemen and ex-Policemen must be encouraged to invest in more private security companies, new companies are extremely necessary for the development of the industry. Similarly existing small companies must be aided to expand their services in the widening security services sector, that is the only way for the growth of this industry. As regards electronic security, a conservative estimate is that less than 3% of the market has been touched in Pakistan.

The draft of an ordinance to regulate private security companies submitted by the Federal Interior Ministry before the Federal Cabinet for approval was adopted by the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and served as a model to be adopted by all the Provincial Governments. The promulgation of the Sindh Private Security Agencies (Regulation and Control) Ordinance 2000 on Jan 3, 2001 seemed to confirm the worst fears of All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA), the umbrella association created by the private security companies. Instead of being treated as any other business in the private sector, the Ordinance in its initial draft form tended to emasculate the basic right of all private citizens to do business by giving arbitrary powers to the Licencing Authority. It also forbade anyone seeking relief from any court of law. This at first glance seemed to be a flagrant denial of basic human rights guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitution.

To the credit of the present government, facets of the Ordinance were repeatedly discussed at various levels. APSAA played a very critical role in the formulation of a workable document. The Federal Interior Minister, the Interior Secretary, the Provincial Home Secretaries, etc all worked to fine-tune the draft ordinance to an acceptable compromise. APSAA’s worries about bureaucratic intercession affecting operational effectiveness were positively addressed. For its part, APSAA re-organized itself and established a permanent Secretariat in Karachi. The man who really deserves all credit is Capt (Retd) Asif Azam Khalil, Secretary General APSAA and owner of Ghazi Security, he has been a constant driving force. APSAA’s Managing Committee of 10 members is chosen by direct vote of every member company every 2 years and in turn chooses a Chairman for a year’s tenure (the Chairman cannot succeed himself). Over the decade APSAA has been in existence, all policy decisions are taken (mostly by unanimous vote) in General Body Meetings.

To deter “undesirable elements” from getting into private security the bureaucracy recommended extremely high registration fees, renewal fees, branch office fees, etc. Since retired officers (almost 90% of the “entrepreneurs” in private security) could only use their limited pensions, the argument that drug smugglers, money launderers, etc could afford such high fees was self-evident. Frankly, this is an irony, because this did not stop those who misused the authority of the office they occupied from smuggling in illegal weapons in the company they created while still in uniform. Lt Gen Moinuddin Haider, the Federal Interior Minister brought the fees down to reasonable limits in line with APSAA stand. Whether it was one uniform for all companies, procedure for issuing new weapon licences, inspection standards and procedures thereof, verification of personal, code of conduct etc these were all debated frankly and consensus arrived at. Everything has been agreed upon except the insistence of one colour blue uniform, this is a non-starter for compliance. Checks and balances were put into the process to negate bureaucratic excesses, fully reflected in the Minutes of the final meeting chaired by the Federal Interior Minister and attended by the Interior Secretary, the Home Secretaries of all the Provinces (and Islamabad Capital Territory) as well as the representatives of APSAA.

The prime requisite of good governance in any society is the safety and well-being of its citizens but peace and harmony cannot be imposed in isolation by law enforcement agencies alone. A sound economy, an equitable system of justice, affordable utilities, employment opportunities etc are only some of the factors directly contributing to good law and order. Increasingly government departments are turning to private security as a cost-effective means in the same manner as individuals and entities. The security of the individual may be the general responsibility of the regime in power, personal security whether by guards or by electronic means, remains the responsibility of the individual, group, corporate body, establishment, etc in any country of the world.

Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).