KARACHI: As many as 166 private security companies (PSCs) in the country are not registered by the government, Daily Times has learnt. According to official sources, these companies are receiving money in terms of thousands of security guards salaries. Sources said that these companies do not have membership of All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA). They said that a total of 516 private security companies are operating nationwide including 250 members of All Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA). It is learnt that among the total 516, around 100 companies have the relevant licence but are not members of the APSAA. The staff of private security companies is deputed at educational institutions, diplomatic offices, banks, commercial centres and other government and private security companies. Sources said that approximately 216 private security companies are operating in Karachi with millions of security guards. The APSAA said that more than 0.156 million security guards are working in all over Sindh province with more than 0.112 million only in Karachi. According to the Police Rules Chapter-2, the total strength of police for watch and ward should not ordinarily exceed the ratio of one constable to 450 people. Sources said that on one side, the rising trend of hiring private guards has brought more and more business opportunities for private companies, but on the other side, it reflects the vulnerable security scene of the port city that has the lowest average of policemen per citizen in the region despite generating more than half of the national revenue. They said, “In the last three decades, law and order in Karachi, as well as in the entire country has deteriorated. The writ of the state has shrunk, leaving large segments of the population at the mercy of those propagating ethnic politics, sectarianism, organised crime and militancy. Against this backdrop, private security has become a need, not a luxury. In fact, it has emerged as a full-time industry.” Since the state is too busy providing police security to VIPs and VVIPs at the taxpayers’ expense, the latter are left with no option but to look for private security in the form of guards and related security services. Today, this industry has grown to a strength of almost 0.156 million men in Sindh alone whereas roughly 0.112 million private security guards are deployed just in Karachi. The government has not only abdicated its responsibility of providing security, but it has also failed to regulate the private security sector. The Sindh government promulgated the Private Security Companies Ordinance 2001, requiring a security company’s registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, subject to clearance from intelligence organisations. Source said, “Few unregistered security companies are operating unchecked and illegally in the province. Those who used to operate have already abandoned or withdrawn from Pakistan.” Sources further said that the screening of security companies was envisaged by the Sindh government as part of its targeted operations in the metropolis after few incidents of robberies with involvement of security guards and at times possession of prohibited firearms by the employees of certain companies. The officials in Sindh Home Department said that the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) would also be involved in the screening process, which could provide both fingerprints and personal records of security guards. It is revealed that taking advantage of the law enforcement regulations governing the activities of private security agencies, some firms have begun to flout the law by using uniforms and vehicles, which resemble those belonging to law enforcement agencies. The APSAA chief said that 250 security agencies were registered with the association from all over the country and these are operating after obtaining licences and other required formalities from the concerned government agencies. He said that there is a need to check the working of several unregistered and unlicenced security agencies in the country. These instances reflect that how majority of the security agencies are operating in Punjab. It is learnt that there are 280 security agencies in Punjab, which are working under the umbrella of the provincial home department which itself is not happy with majority of them. Sources said that the provincial home department has revoked licences of 30 security agencies in the last two months and issued show cause notices to another 40 companies on various grounds like working without a valid licence and more importantly treating their staff inhumanly. APSAA President Big (r) Rsheed A Malik said the role of private security agencies is vital in maintenance of law and order throughout the province.