LAHORE - Contrary to the tall claims of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that police commandoes deployed with the powerful persons have been withdrawn, thousands of Elite Police Force (EPF) personnel are still on-guard to protect VVIPs, VIPs and their families in the province.

Sources in the elite police force revealed on Wednesday that more than 4,000 elite police personnel are still employed with the VVIPs, VIPs, and their families for security duties.

The federal minister while briefing the Parliament’s Standing Committee on the performance of the Interior Ministry claimed that hundreds of security personnel deployed with non-entitled persons or doing household duties with the VIPs since the past regime were withdrawn and posted on their actual duty.

But this claim proves false in Punjab where thousands of elite police commandoes are guarding and escorting the influential persons and their families.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a couple of days ago, had said it was a fashion with the ruling elite to keep the police commandoes for their personal security. “I am trying to end this trend, as I have personally withdrawn 22 Rangers detailed at the Interior Ministry’s box.”

A police official said that over 500 personnel of the Elite Force are providing security cover to the Sharif family alone. He also informed that more than 350 Elite Force men are at the disposal of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.

Currently, there are more than 5,700 personnel of the Punjab elite force out of which above 4,000 policemen are deployed to provide security to the influential persons and their families including the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Governor, Speakers, senior judges, bureaucrats, and powerful individuals.

Apart from Lahore, elite police commandoes are sent to other districts of the Punjab province to provide security-cum-protocol to the influential individuals.

Sources say the Elite police force has become merely a protocol division. The prime responsibility of the comparatively well-trained force is only to escort the ‘under threat’ ruling elite in the province.

Punjab IGP Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera had ordered the department to withdraw police commandos deployed on the security of VIPs so that they could be deputed on operational duties. Ironically, the IGP bowed before political pressure within months of his posting and now he has asked the field officers to deploy policemen with the VIPs for security duties. Similarly, most of the lower staff earlier withdrawn from the residences of a few retired and serving officers is again being attached with them.

Sources said that the provincial police chief took a U-turn as the police high-ups were snubbed by the political elite soon after they decided to withdraw the elite police squads from performing duties with the influential leaders.

As per statistics collected from the Punjab police and the Home Department, some 75 per cent strength of the total Elite Police Force in Lahore has been deployed to ensure ‘foolproof security’ to the VIPs of Punjab. According to a retired Inspector General of Police, the trend of protocol duties has been destroying the prestige of the Elite Police Force in the province.  

Many Elite police personnel are deployed at the residences of leading political leaders and bureaucrats in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Murree, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Sargodha, Sahiwal and, and other districts. Sometime the elite personnel are also called from other districts for protocol duties in the provincial metropolis” a police commando said.

Highly-trained elite police had been created to assist district police in situations that need expertise with high-risk searches, raids, and rescue operations. The officers in the Elite police are trained to a high degree of skill in use of firearms, personal combat, and reconnaissance missions. Unfortunately, almost the entire Elite Police Force has been put at the disposal of the provincial hierarchy in the Punjab where a spate of suicidal attacks has shaken the confidence of the ordinary people.

DIG Elite Police Force Muhammad Tahir, when contacted, was reluctant to speak on the issue. “You should contact the Lahore police officers (to know about the actual deployment of elite police personnel),” suggested the elite police force chief, a vigorous police wing established in the late 1990s to counter sectarianism and carry out special operations against the hardened criminals.

Lahore SP Mobiles Mukhtar Bokhari, when contacted, was also unwilling to share details of elite police deployment in Lahore with this reporter. He said that the elite police are attached with the influential or VIPs when they travel in Lahore. When asked is it true that the elite policemen are withdrawn from the security duties with the VVIPs, VIPs, and their families, the officer refused to comment on this issue.