LAHORE - The Punjab Chief Minister’s office has finally agreed to the demands of Punjab Police to set up a Specialized Protection Unit (SPU) for the security of foreigners, working across the province, allocate required funds and sanction posts, TheNation has learnt.

The Home and Finance departments had already endorsed the IGP’s proposal in this regard and forwarded the same to the chief minister for approval.

Sources in the CM office said that the Punjab police had earlier demanded Rs1.2 billion for the security of foreigners working on different projects across Punjab and the office has agreed to approve the summary.

A new vacancy of deputy inspector general (DIG) for foreigners’ security and projects has already been duly created during the last fiscal year.

The Home Department official did not disclose the procedure for recruitment on the sanctioned posts in the special squad after the CM’s nod. However, he assured that the recruitment process would be transparent owing to the sensitivity of the task. He said that the recruitment process might be completed through the National Testing Service (NTS) like before during recruitment of 1500 corporals for the Anti-Terrorism Force (ATF) this March. He said that foreign instructors or Army officials could be hired for the capacity building of the newly-inducted SPU staff. He stressed that de-radicalization and foreign investment were two major goals of the PML-N government.

When this scribe contacted a senior officer serving in Punjab Police, he said, there was a dire need to enhance coordination among various agencies working on counterterrorism and insurgency issues. “It was lacking till now” the officer abhorred.

A summary forwarded by the IGP to the Home Department had demanded from the government to: allow recruitment of staff comprising of 2,500 officials, including DSPs, Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, ASIs, Constables, drivers and other staff; and to allocate the required funds.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, a couple of months back, announced that as the foreign investment was knocking at the doors of the province, it was essential to make foolproof security arrangements for the engineers and other foreigners. He had asserted that China, Turkey and other countries were providing financial as well as technical support for the development of energy, infrastructure and other sectors and pledged to provide security cover to those working on these projects. He had also suggested formation of a special squad for the purpose.

The Home Department had stated that 100 vehicles, drivers and other clerical staff would have to be recruited for the security of the citizens of other countries working on different projects in Punjab, besides purchasing double-cabin vehicles for the SPU. It had been decided that the funds would be allocated in the coming fiscal year.

An officer of the Punjab government revealed that 482 foreigners from different countries had been working on power projects in Punjab. He said that funds would be released to the provincial police after the approval of the CM. He said that foreign investment was essential for progress of the country, so the government had decided to form a new squad to ensure foreigners’ security. Engineers from different countries were reluctant to work on the ongoing projects, so the pace of work on different projects especially power sector remained much slow, the officer remarked. The government had to pay additional funds for the projects facing delay for security reasons, he held.

China’s investment in Pakistan, he said, was quite lower as compared to direct investment of the US, UK and other western countries. The PML-N government approached China for investment that agreed to make a huge investment worth 34 billion US dollars in the country. He said that the energy sector was to see a major uplift with no loadshedding in the near future, so the Punjab government’s plan to establish a separate security force for foreigners was a pragmatic approach, he held. He added that Chinese President Xi Jinping, who went to India, wanted to start his tour from Pakistan but it did not happen owing to turmoil and political crisis. The Chinese prime minister had conveyed his concerns to the visiting PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari in Beijing about the political situation in Islamabad and had desired that the dispute should be resolved before Jinping’s visit to Pakistan.

It is to be recalled that Dr Warren Weinstein, an American national and USAID contractor working for JE Austen, was kidnapped in 2011. On February 19, 2012, two foreign nationals, one German and the other Italian working for an NGO, were abducted from Multan by some banned outfit and their whereabouts are still unknown. Moreover, in addition to tens of others, sons of former premier Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and former Punjab governor Salman Taseer were also abducted and the government agencies have so far failed to trace them.