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Dolphin Force: Punjab government's white elephant?

Updated September 21, 2015

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The new 500cc motorbikes delivered to the Dolphin Force. — Photo courtesy: Facebook
The new 500cc motorbikes delivered to the Dolphin Force. — Photo courtesy: Facebook

While the name may not strike fear into the hearts of hardened criminals, the newly established Dolphin Force – an elite security unit – is out patrolling the streets of Lahore.

The inspiration (and peculiar name) for the security force comes from a law enforcement unit in Turkey which greatly impressed Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, leading to its emulation at home. But while Sharif pushes to expand this pet project, top police officials eye the new unit with some disdain, as they believe it will meet an embarrassing end like its predecessors.

Exorbitant cost is the primary reason Dolphin Force looks likely to fail.

The unit has so far received 35 Honda CB motorbikes out of an estimated final strength of 300. With an engine capacity of around 500cc, the bikes have been purchased at a staggering cost of Rs1.5 million each.

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The list of expenses the still nascent force has incurred does not stop here. Plans are also afoot to equip members of the unit with uniforms that cost Rs50,000 each, replete with attached cameras and a chip to monitor the officer's movement. Maintenance and repair costs will also be higher than those of previously established patrolling units.

The new 500cc motorbikes delivered to the Dolphin Force. — Photo courtesy: DawnNews screengrab
The new 500cc motorbikes delivered to the Dolphin Force. — Photo courtesy: DawnNews screengrab

Requesting anonymity, police officials, when contacted, say it is just a matter of time before the force and its expensive equipment runs out of funds to function in the manner envisaged by the chief minister. They add that the unit will eventually end up being deployed to protect VIPs, not to fight crime.

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The new 500cc motorbikes issued to the Dolphin Force. DawnNews screengrab
The new 500cc motorbikes issued to the Dolphin Force. DawnNews screengrab

DSP Dolphin Force Mir Kashif Khalil argues that such high-powered bikes are necessary for the unit to pursue and apprehend criminals involved in street crime. However, similar 'elite' units such as Muhafiz Force and Quick Response Force became redundant soon after they were established, due to a lack of funds to ensure maintenance of the 125cc motorbikes provided.

Most police officials that were a part of these units were reduced to using their personal vehicles to perform daily duties. To make matters worse, they were given a meager daily allowance of 1.5 liters of fuel.

Both units are now relegated to the protection of VIPs.

The 125cc motorbikes used by Punjab police. — DawnNews screengrab
The 125cc motorbikes used by Punjab police. — DawnNews screengrab

Several requests were sent to higher offices of the provincial government to increase the number of vehicles deployed at police stations, officials claim, but no response was ever solicited.

They add that most of the police stations in Lahore have just two vehicles, which is not enough to maintain law and order in the city. Funds splurged on the new elite unit could have been used to revamp the existing squads, officials argue.

For now, there is little optimism regarding Dolphin Force's success within local police circles.