Almost all of the Elite Force units - special commandos trained to counter crime and terrorism - have been permanently attached with “very important personalities” in Lahore. No less than 200 constable drivers and hundreds of elite police commandoes, including those from the Quick Response Force (QRF) sitting on their seats, are escorting government officers and the political elite, while the city is left undefended.

The fact that the much-touted pet project of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had more or less become a force of bodyguards is common knowledge in the province, but to learn that all units in Punjab have been diverted to this role is shocking nonetheless. With eight vehicles of Elite Force permanently deployed at the Raiwind Farm House of the Prime Minister, 11 are deployed at 96-H Block Model Town and three are deployed at 180-H Block Model Town, this gradual evolution has certainly happened within the knowledge of the Chief Minister, and perhaps his blessing too. An expensive and promising project has been laid to rest – and all fingers point to the man in charge of Punjab for the past few decades.

The new Dolphin Squad and the Police Respond Unit (PRU) are waiting in the wings to take over the job of protecting the city, but their mandate and training makes them ineffective for the job of picketing and counter-terrorism. The Dolphin Squad is charged with patrolling on fixed routes, and to serve as a public assistance force, while the PRU is basically a squad of regular police constables in a painted sedan, mandated with responding to house calls. None of them have been given the responsibility the Elite Force has – hunting and eliminating criminals.

Last week, at least seven people were killed in Lahore during two robbery attempts within a short span of time, and the citizens’ refrain is that the police was nowhere to be seen. Lahore may be swarming with police officers, but none is able to take the fight to the criminals.