By Zia Ur Rehman
September 4, 2014
KARACHI – The Sindh government and police are preparing for the dangers of confronting Taliban militants and criminal gangs and are taking effective measures to ensure the safety of police in Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital.
“The TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan]; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [LeJ], a banned sectarian group; criminal syndicates from Lyari; and the militant wing of a political party are targeting police in retaliation for the on-going crackdown in the city that has shattered the network of all of these anti-peace elements,” Karachi Police Chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo told Central Asia Online.
The Karachi police, serving a population of 22m, face a variety of challenges, he said, noting that they include ethno-political violence, sectarian killings, organised crime, land grabs and militancy associated with the global jihad network, all of which make law enforcement in Karachi a more dangerous job than in other cities.
In the first eight months of this year, 115 local police were killed, Karachi Police spokesman Atiq Sheikh said, adding that many of the killings occurred in the west district, a largely Pashtun-dominated region.
During 2013, 166 police were killed in the city, up from the 122 police fatalities in 2012, according to Karachi police statistics.
Measures to improve policing
Police in recent weeks have killed or arrested a number of militants involved in targeting police, Sheikh said, and the police department is taking measures to ensure its officers’ safety.
Recently, police deputed 100 of 1,840 ex-military officers recruited in April to sensitive police stations to enhance security in the region, Irfan Ali Baloch, a senior police official, told Central Asia Online.
The department is working to upgrade its equipment and capabilities. In an early sign of that commitment, it acquired 66 new digital camera-fitted mobile phones in late August to improve surveillance and snap-checking in sensitive areas, Thebo said.
Additionally, police officers received bullet-proof vests and helmets, Baloch said.
The department strictly ordered police not to wear their uniforms when they’re off duty and in their own neighbourhoods, to always patrol with at least two vehicles, and to avoid any needless sitting in tea stalls.
Recruiting 10,000 police
The Sindh government in August decided to recruit 10,000 additional personnel for the provincial force in fiscal year 2014-15 and to provide them the latest anti-terrorism training from military officers. Most of them will be assigned to Karachi.
The government September 2 approved another batch of 1,000 retired military officers to supplement the force and ordered 5,000 more bullet-proof jackets to accommodate the influx of new police.
Expanding the force will, at the very least, improve the ratio of police personnel to citizens.
A study carried out in May by the Sindh police indicated that the available strength of the police force in Karachi was 26,847, meaning a ratio of one police officer per 820 residents – one of the lowest in Pakistan, Raees Ahmed, a Karachi-based independent researcher, said.
In Lahore, for example, the ratio is one officer for 337 inhabitants, Ahmed said. So recruiting more officers should help the Karachi police force work more effectively, he said.