Rs8bn plan in place to strengthen Levies Force

The government of Balochistan on Wednesday approved a Rs8 billion plan towards the restructuring of its law-enforcement agency. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 September 2018

Rs8bn plan in place to strengthen Levies Force

  • Balochistan’s tribal police to be restructured in four phases
  • Move to make law-enforcement agency more capable of meeting security challenges

KARACHI: As part of its measures to reorganize and strengthen the Levies Force, the government of Balochistan on Wednesday approved a Rs8 billion plan towards the restructuring of its law-enforcement agency.

“The cabinet has approved Rs8 billion for restructuring and strengthening the Levies Force,” Information Minister, Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, told Arab News. 

According to Buledi, the restructuring plan will be completed in four phases for which the provincial government will seek help from Islamabad. “The federal government will be requested to induct 2,000 new personnel,” Buledi said.

On Tuesday, Levies Force Director General Tariqur Rehman briefed Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani and the provincial cabinet of a need to strengthen the force by establishing specific departments, namely: the quick response force wing, counter-terrorism wing, bomb disposal squad; and the intelligence wing, among others.

“Balochistan Levies’ improvement and betterment shall be done to bring them at par with police and other authorities,” Alyani tweeted after the meeting.

Currently, around 38,000 police personnel control the law and order situation in less than 10 percent of the province, whereas more than 23,000 Levies’ personnel are responsible for the rest of Balochistan -- specifically the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with “as many as 13,227 out of 23,132 personnel having obtained training.”

Balochistan is Pakistan’s smallest province in terms of population, but largest in terms of land, spread across an area of 347,190 square kilometers. 

Who are the Levies?

“The Levies Force was established by the British Raj, keeping in view the tribal culture and regional dynamics of Balochistan,” Syed Ali Shah, a Quetta-based journalist covering security issues, told Arab News.

The force also assists other agencies in anti-smuggling raids and is responsible for the protection of the Pak-Afghan border, with recovery of land revenue, agriculture tax and all kinds of loans among its other tasks. It has jurisdiction in all districts and is headed by a director-general. It comprises locally-sourced security personnel, specifically from the Baloch and Pashtun communities. The areas controlled by the Levies Force are called B-areas whereas those managed by the police are called A-areas.

Adding that they continue to be relevant “to cope with unfolding security challenges” and because police personnel deployed from other districts “hardly know the local dynamics and are less effective as compared to the Levies”, Shah said: “We have a strong tribal setup and only the Levies can effectively work as they know who is how and what is what. The crime ratio in B-areas is far low as compared to A-areas where the police operate.”

However, not all consider the development necessary, questioning why the Levies Force “shouldn’t be merged with police for uniformity and better results”.

“If the government is spending Rs8billion on training and development of the Levies …why don’t we make a unified police system for better results?” Dr Muhammad Shoaib Suddle, former Inspector General of Police Balochistan, asked.

Suddle holds a rich portfolio of heading different organizations, dealing with issues of crime and militancy, and had initiated the process of merging the Levies Force with the police in 2004, when he was police chief. He reasoned that the old British system of the Levies Force or tribal police was in place as it was cheaper at the time. 

“We started with Nasirabad, the district of the-then Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali and Labela a district of the-then chief minister Jam Mir Mohammad Yousaf, who was the father of incumbent CM Balochistan,” Suddle said, adding that the merger was completed by his successors by 2007 at a cost of Rs10 billion but reserved by 2010 due to political interests.

Ruing the lack of a merit system in the Levies Force, whereby “if a father dies, his son can take up his charge”, Suddle said that the cost of maintain the force is borne by the provincial government as it’s controlled by Balochistan. “If other provinces have a uniformed force then why shouldn’t be there a single uniformed system of policing in Balochistan?” he said.

Echoing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s thoughts that no system of policing can be successful until it is depoliticized, Suddle said that the concept of the Levies Force “suits political forces as it’s more open to political interference”.

“Several new challenges have emerged over the years. When you have more than one law enforcing system, ensuring coordination becomes difficult,” Suddle said.

According to Balochistan’s home and tribal affairs department, the Levies Force is responsible for the maintenance of law and order in "B" area, execution and service of summons and warrants, manning of judicial lock ups, patrolling in "B" area including highways, protection of vital installations, railways tracks, bridges and culverts, buildings and railways, security of foreign expectorates and delegations in "B" area of the province and the maintenance of law and order in Afghan refugees camps.

Karachi police chief asks his cops to be clean, lightly armed

Updated 23 September 2018

Karachi police chief asks his cops to be clean, lightly armed

  • Karachi police to replace Kalashnikovs, Sub Machine Guns (SMGs) with pistols and revolvers for officials on patrol, escort and picket duties
  • Taking back automatic assault weapons from policemen in a city such as Karachi, where people and groups are heavily armed, is not a wise decision, says former IG Sindh, Afzal Ali Shigri

KARACHI: The chief of police in Pakistan’s seaside megacity of Karachi has introduced reforms in an effort to win public hearts.

“The police persons should be nicely dressed, should be neat and lean and should demonstrate good manners,” Dr. Amir Ahmed Shaikh, the city police chief, told Arab News.
Shaikh, on Saturday, issued a notification, reading; “SMG/automatic assault weapon should not be displayed or pointed toward general public during escort movements or mobile patrolling.”
The directives, from Shaikh, which were forwarded for strict compliance to his subordinates, read: “All assault weapons are to be replaced with pistols/revolvers.”
According to priority, the motorcycle squad will have only pistol or revolver.
For escorts, police patrolling mobile, picket points and Madadgar, 15 mobiles will be allowed to have one SMG each. The rest of the police on these duties will have pistols only.
“It has been observed with great concern that all police persons deployed for patrolling, pickets or escort duties are armed with SMGs, and the display of automatic assault weapon in an urban setting not only scares people but also results in casualties in a case of even accidental firing,” reads the notification.
Shaikh, in an interview with Arab News, said he has carried this and all other measures to reform the police who are infamous.
“I am making police people-friendly. I want a police force which is loved by the people and upon seeing them, criminals should run away,” Shaikh said. “Currently the people are running away from the police. It hurts me a lot that the police are defamed due to a few.”
Shaikh said that he had identified 197 officials who are black sheep of the police force. “Policemen are involved in kidnapping. Would anyone call them policemen? They are kidnappers, they are criminals. They are dacoits but they have no more any place in police force,” the enthusiastic police officer vowed.
Although his good intentions are hailed by many, former officials have criticized the decision of taking automatic weapons back from the police.
“It’s no less than a suicide to take back automatic weapons from police in a city where huge caches of arms are recovered on a regular basis,” Afzal Ali Shigri, former Inspector General of Police Sindh, told Arab News.
In the 1980s, Shigri recalled, the policemen in Karachi would have sticks to deal with criminals. “But it’s not Karachi of those past times. It has remained a center of violence although peace has been restored. The city has faced every type of actors of violence which exists in this country. The city has been host to sectarian, ethnic violence besides hardcore terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State-inspired youths,” he said.
Shigri said even the common people are armed. “How do we expect police with a pistol to deal with a criminal having an assault rifle?” he asked.
One has to take several aspects before taking such major decisions, the former IG said, adding that instead of AK-47 and other assault weapons with a large range, the police should be armed with close-range weapons like the MP5, which are good for urban centers.
Shaikh said that after assuming power as city police chief he has not only focused on finding black sheep within an otherwise great police force but is also working on building their capacity.
On Saturday another notification issued by Shaikh reads: “It is to state that since last two years no firing refresher courses have been arranged for the constabulary, so training should be provided.”
In his letter to principals of the Saeedabad and Razzakabad police training colleges, Shaikh has requested firing training for 540 policemen in the first phase.