KARACHI, Feb 5: A special police unit meant to function exclusively as a counter-terrorism strike force set up in 2009 has ended up providing ‘gunmen’ and escorts to anyone who enjoys political clout, it emerged on Tuesday.

A brainchild of former inspector general of Sindh police, Babar Khattak, the Rapid Response Force (RRF) mostly caters to the security needs of politicians and other influential persons by providing security guards and police escorts despite the presence of the Security Headquarters set for the purpose, sources in the department told Dawn.

‘We want policemen in black uniforms as gunmen,’ insists every other politician in the province, the sources said.

The unit, set up as a counter-terrorism force, was never supposed to provide guards for the influential, a senior police officer at the Central Police Office said.

The unit was initially named ‘counter-terrorism force’. The name was hijacked by the crime investigation department (CID), which set up a ‘counter-terrorism unit’ of its own mainly to attract American funding in the war against terrorism, sources privy to the then developments told Dawn.

Subsequently, it was renamed ‘special police group’, then ‘counter-terrorism task force’, but which again proved contentious and was finally named Rapid Response Force, the sources said.

Initially, the unit had 2,000 personnel and was formed on army regimentation according to which 80 per cent of the personnel were supposed to be present on duty while 20pc could be on leave.

The concept of the force was to carry out raids anywhere required within the jurisdiction of any police station and the men were supposed to wear masks during operations, the sources added.

Likewise, the force was supposed to be employed in a situation of terrorism.

Citing a recent instance of successful deployment of the RRF, an official pointed out that at the Pakistan Air Force’s Mehran base its men had played an important role in addressing the situation. However, over the time the role of force has been reduced to an anti-riot force, the sources admitted.

At present, the force comprises 1,000 men made up of 10 companies, each consisting of 50 men headed by a DSP.

Special allowance was the main attraction in the force, which has now been drastically reduced, the sources pointed out. As the general degradation in the police department, the standard of the RRF has also drastically dropped.

Earlier, an eight-month elite course was mandatory for induction in the force, but now men who have undergone just a few weeks courses are being accommodated in the force, the sources said.

“The day former IG Babar Khattak retired, all funds meant for the RRF were diverted away,” complained a top officer seeking anonymity.

Several senior officers at the Central Police Office were of the opinion that a former DIG of the RRF had played havoc with the force and treated it in a step-motherly manner, siphoning away all funds meant for the betterment of the new force.

Now, when there is paucity of funds for the RRF, the post of DIG-RRF often remains vacant, the sources pointed out.

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