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KARACHI: Around 168 ex-army personnel out of the planned 2,000 for the ‘special protection unit’ of the Sindh police have been trained and posted at various locations while nearly 500 more have been selected by the authorities concer­ned, it was learnt on Saturday.

Officials in the Sindh home ministry said they had recruited the first batch of the planned 2,000 ex-army personnel for the special protection unit (SPU) who had been trained and posted somewhere.

“Some 168 ex-army personnel have been trained and are on duty,” said a senior official in the home ministry but he did not provide details.

He said around 487 more had been selected and their medical examination was under way. “Soon, they will be sent for training,” he added.

The SPU was set up by the Apex Committee of Sindh on the directives of the federal interior ministry to provide ‘seamless security’ to the Chinese who are coming to Sindh for projects related to the China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor (CPEC).

Interior Minister Chaud­hry Nisar Ali Khan said some 2,000 ex-army personnel would be there to stren­gthen the capacity of the Sindh police and assist in safeguarding the CPEC-related projects.

However, leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party, including Qamar Zaman Kaira, criticised the interior minister for violating the Constitution by interfering in the law and order issue in Sindh, which is a provincial subject.

Officials said this was not the first time that Sindh police were hiring ex-servicemen as some 1,200 retired soldiers had been recruited two years ago to cope with the security challenges and targeted operations in Karachi.

“Any criticism against the recruitment of retired soldiers for the SPU is uncalled-for as the Sindh police did it previously as well,” said an official in Islamabad.

The 1,200 retired soldiers of the armed forces were recruited in line with the decision of the provincial cabinet mainly for security duties in Karachi.

Officials in the Sindh police then had said that the induction of ex-servicemen in its ranks had helped the police as the growing security challenges required a much larger force than the existing one.

They said that the benefit of hiring retired military men was that they were already prepared to join the force with immediate effect and “just need to learn the basics before being inducted”.

The Sindh government said it was ready to take all measures needed to establish an effective SPU for the Chinese investors and their projects.

“The remaining vacancies [in the SPU] will be advertised soon,” said an official in the home ministry.

Chairing a meeting mulling over the security plans for CPEC projects in Sindh, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said CPEC would open new vistas of prosperity and development in Sindh like elsewhere in the country.

Officials said the Sindh government had already issued standard operation procedures (SOPs) for the security of the Chinese in the province.

They added that the federal government had also raised a special security division (SSD) consisting of nine infantry combat battalions of Pakistan Army with a force of 9,000 personnel and six wings of civil armed force of 4,502 personnel for the security of CPEC projects and Chinese expatriates.

The provincial government is yet to give its input in the terms of reference for the SSD, under which there would be a dedicated headquarters for each CPEC project.

Officials claim that CM Shah had already directed the Sindh police chief to ensure proper security of CPEC projects and expedite the appointment of 2,000 special force personnel for the security of the Chinese.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2016