The interior ministry has balked at the possibility of providing security to foreign companies engaged in exploring oil and gas reserves in the country and shifted this responsibility on to the provinces.
While responding to questions asked by the Senate Standing Committee on Petroleum, Interior Additional Secretary Tariq Mehmood said keeping law and order was the responsibility of the provinces as the security forces were too occupied with maintaining security at different fronts.
“The FC and Rangers are already overstretched,” he said. Keeping this in mind, the government has decided to raise a separate division consisting of six paramilitary wings and eight army battalions for the multibillion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The ministry has turned down nine other such requests. “Wapda also asked us for an additional force of G-B (Gilgit-Baltistan) Scouts for Basha dam. But we have asked them to finance two additional wings of G-B Scouts,” Mehmood said.
These replies irritated the senators who criticised the overall security situation in the country and the ban on issuances of gun licences.
The interior ministry came under fire after an exploration firm asked for security. The foreign company is a partner organisation of a firm owned by Senator Taj Muhammad Afridi, who had forwarded the complaint against the ministry to the petroleum committee.
“The foreign company wants protection by the Rangers as they do not trust the police,” Senator Afridi said. “If there are no Rangers or FC in the country that means the companies should go ahead and raise [their] own battalion of guards.”
Senator Rubina Irfan lamented her marble mines in the Chaghi area had stopped operations five years ago. “Even I was fired at last year,” she said. “The police is unable to do anything and the FC is too busy fighting terrorists.”
Criticising the ban on issuing weapon licences, Senator Fateh Muhammad Hassani complained that while normal people could not get new guns, terrorists and lawbreakers did not even need permission for that.
In the end, it was decided the ministry would respond within 15 days with a solution to the crisis.
“We want you to come up with a practical approach, as the current policy to provide security to CPEC projects and leave the others unattended is not fair,” said Senator Muhammad Yousuf, who chaired the committee in the absence of committee chairman Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri who is out of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.