KARACHI -- Karachi police are going the extra mile to protect city residents' lives and property.
The effort comes as Karachi reaps the benefits of an on-going, three-year-old crackdown on local gangs by the para-military Rangers.
Starting in August, about 200 police commandos of the Special Security Unit (SSU) began protecting multiple vulnerable sites. They were following orders from Sindh Province Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and provincial Inspector General of Police (IGP) A. D. Khawaja.
The SSU commandos "serve on two shifts", Maqsood Memon, Karachi deputy IGP (DIG) for security and the SSU commandant in Karachi, told Pakistan Forward.
Their duties during Independence Day (August 14) and other times include protecting sensitive areas like bazaars and shopping centres, he said.
Police have devised a strategy to protect and patrol such areas, he said, adding that they co-ordinate with local police.
"We are taking the utmost steps to make the city more secure," he said.
"The commandos have the latest weapons and communication systems," he said. "They will remain alert around the clock and are assigned to ... deal with any emergency and to stay vigilant."
Defending progress made
As the city basks in the relative calm that the Rangers achieved by launching their crackdown in September 2013, residents want to prevent any deterioration in security.
In a recent statement, the Rangers lauded the Karachi public for helping restore law and order and warned it against assisting terrorists, wittingly or not. Such assistance includes allowing terrorists to rent accommodations.
The SSU is rethinking some aspects of police work, such as providing a user-friendly location for civilians.
"The SSU [recently] opened a facilitation centre as a pilot project at the Defence Housing Authority [DHA] neighbourhood," Memon said. "It provides 24/7 service ... through a single-window process and a help desk for citizens who have to obtain certificates, permits and other government services."
So far, the city has only one such centre, as police evaluate its performance before deciding whether to open others.
"The idea behind setting up police facilitation centres [PFCs] is to provide a trouble-free interface and guidance for all sorts of public complaints," Memon said, adding that PFCs are not intended to handle only criminal matters.
Governmental facilities under one roof
PFCs are intended to offer citizens help in all conceivable matters, ranging from criminal to marital to civil. Citizens will be able to pay traffic fines or lodge complaints about police, among other issues.
"Educated, professional staff will help citizens deal with their problems," Memon said.
Residents of Karachi welcome the idea.
"PFC is a modern concept for providing required services under one roof," DHA resident Taimur told Pakistan Forward.
"Setting up such a centre will make it convenient for citizens," Fazeela, another DHA resident, said.
Bridging gaps between police and communities
Officials supervising the creation of PFCs strive to maximise "efficiency and transparency" in a friendly environment, Memon said.
Other institutions will help smooth the path of citizens through life, he said, adding that district- and divisional-level dispute resolution councils will address domestic disputes, while attorneys can handle civil matters.
If citizens use a PFC to complain about police misbehaviour, the DIG Complaint Cell Office will receive the file for necessary action, Memom said. In a nod to transparency, the affected citizen will receive updates about the progress of the investigation.
PFCs "will play a facilitator role between complainants and investigating officers", he said. They "will condense the workload of police stations so they can ... dedicate themselves to preventing crime."
An array of agencies is helping the PFC idea take off. They include the Karachi , Citizens' Police Liaison Committee, National Database and Registration Authority and the Cantonment Board Clifton.