Private Security: Amateurs in a Professional Business?

by Hasan Y. Rizvi  (Managing Director at KRATOS – Security Consultants)


KRATOS is a highly specialized safety & security firm dealing primarily in Security Management,

Close Protection and Risk Mitigation Strategy.



The sight of guards in blue uniforms deployed at residences, offices, banks and other facilities has become commonplace in Pakistan, considering the current security climate and state of affairs. However, what is truly alarming is the lack of ‘quality control’ within the industry itself. Guards will often be seen in clear violation of protocols and adopt poor presentation: slippers instead of boots, dirty and stained uniforms and poor and irresponsible holstering of their weapons, just to name a few. It pains me to see this, especially considering the importance of the industry and the vital nature of its work.

When I see such breaches in protocol, I find it farcical to refer to these individuals as security personnel, as their violations and appearance do not warrant such a title. In addition to the issue of appearance, other aspects which trouble me are the quality of trainings these individuals undergo. There are probably only a few companies in Pakistan that take these three areas seriously, and this is purely due to their clients’ understanding and cooperation on the matter. Many clients, particularly local non-foreign ones, do not pay heed to the vital importance of basic security skills and its minimum requirements, and also refuse to allocate an adequate budget towards safety and security even though they have the resources, which therefore results in quality being compromised. In some instances, security companies operating in Pakistan have either expired licenses, and are not fulfilling their legal obligations, therefore coming under the close scrutiny of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) which hinders their work and its quality further.

Since I have joined the industry, it alarms me to see how lax and carefree we, as a nation, are on matters related to the safety and security. Commercial office buildings do not have necessary basic safety measures/infrastructure in place (e.g.: emergency exits, anti-fire mechanisms or even emergency plans in times of crisis). In the United Kingdom, for example, one cannot enter a building until and unless it has been passed and approved by the Health and Safety agencies. Sure, we cannot expect that level of efficiency in Pakistan – although it should be the gold standard and law. However, as individuals we continue to have a lack of information and sensitization to the concept of safety and security. As a nation, we have gone through our fair share of grief, and mostly, those incidences could have been prevented, but due to a lack of planning, weak communication among agencies, ineffective procedures and inadequately trained security personnel, the opportunity for it to take place was created.

The state and its people are reactive rather than proactive. A robbery will take place and a considerable amount of financial damage will occur, and only then will we start considering cameras, lights and security guards patrolling our premises. Why do we wait for an incident to occur rather than putting in place measures which could potentially avoid those incidents from occurring in the first place? Sure, in the world of private security, we are talking about purely deterrence. No matter how well I equip my teams, albeit with fully automatic weapons, to precise communication tools, as well as night vision glasses among other accessories; they remain a force whose role is to primarily hold on in an emergency until Law Enforcement arrives because your safety, my safety and the peoples safety is only guaranteed by the state and no company can ever fill that role, or even have that capacity or access to resources on that scale.  Companies are not, and should not, be considered full-fledged para-military forces, unless sanctioned by the state to fulfil that role. Security companies are, and will continue to remain a deterrence tool, that at the end of the day, indeed is highly effective as long as the right tools, trainings and motivation is provided.

Another vital area in private security in Pakistan is the role of ‘Close Protection’ and it is often misunderstood. Close Protection is a term used to identify a Close Protection Operative (CPO). A CPO is a highly trained individual, mostly hailing from the Special Services Groups (SSG) of Pakistan, be it Navy, Army or Air Force. CPOs can be trained civilians too, for example, I myself am trained in the field, and spent a couple of months in Stafford, England with a group of the UK Special Air Service (SAS) operatives who conducted an intensive and very detailed training programme.

CPOs are often deployed to protect the lives and reputations of high profile individuals, businesses and assets which have a justified need for these specialized services. They personally handle everything, from your restaurant booking to your route plan, examining each through a lens of safety and security to ensure no hurdles, and mitigate as many risks as possible. These are not your typical gun toting body guards who fire first and look later. A CPOs standard operating procedure (SOP) for weapon usage should be implemented in such a way that their goal should be first and foremost to get you out of a tricky situation rather than starting a fire fight. The following steps must be adhered to – number 1, run. If that fails then, number 2, hide, and if you can’t do that either then number 3, fight. Indeed, if push comes to shove then a necessary response is warranted, and that too in a systematic, effective manner. Additionally, being proficient in first aid, hospitality, unarmed combat, multiple fire arms expertise (e.g.: glocks and M4s), defensive driving, aviation, among other certifications gives these men an edge over other more traditional personal security options, such as the guards I had detailed earlier in the article. However, due to their specialization and qualifications, the price one pays for such services is also significantly higher, and that is probably the reason most clients  do not opt for it.

But despite the obvious benefits and effectiveness the CPO solution provides, not enough attention to detail is being given to this segment within the industry. A number of reputable companies, however, have started to loosen their belts a bit and are employing CPOs coupled with adequate support infrastructure, but the harsh reality remains that many others, despite having the financial resources to do so, are merely settling and playing to the choir, and thinking that just because the guy is an SSG, he will manage to do the job all by himself – however that is an unrealistic expectation.

A CPO requires a support system too, which entails routine communications, sharing of critical information in real time, back up support if and when required, high quality equipment such as first aid box, towing equipment for vehicles, communication tools and lastly, reliable and authentic weaponry. Another important requirement for a CPO is to understand the risk and threat of where he or she is being deployed. A CPO should know more about their client than the clients own family or partners. Only then can all aspects of that individual be protected. This involves a process, whereby, before deployment there is a two to four week preparation period. Lack of preparation is a common practice in the industry in Pakistan, and clients and companies often do not fully embrace this practice, which results in many elementary mistakes taking place.

Security is a broad idea and industry with many different components. However, at the end of the day, it comes down to your selected service provider, the client’s expectations, and lastly but most importantly, finance. It is incredibly sad to see that given the amount of incidents in Pakistan, be it kidnappings of high profile individuals, or even the targeting of soft locations, i.e. public parks, malls, hotels, the realization that we need to start getting serious about security remains absent and neglected and does not come as naturally as it should. It is however promising to see examples of the state proactively seeking to improve its security apparatus with initiatives such as the ‘safe city’ in Islamabad, Peshawar, etc., by installing CCTV cameras throughout the city, and the induction of the ‘Dolphin Force’ in Lahore, which has taken up the mantle to tackle street crime with some decent equipment provided to them.

However, private individuals, who cannot rely on state funded security agencies, are not fully absorbing how risky it is to compromise on cost and quality when taking on private security guards, or disregarding the idea of putting in place proper security measures at their residences or offices. Safety and security is an area where one cannot and should not compromise on cost, as we only live once and if history has taught us anything, it is that things can change in an instant, especially in the context of Pakistan.

As citizens, individuals, employers, clients, vendors, companies, we need to be wise in our approach and as involved as we can. It is time we, as a nation, and as a people, start taking security seriously. We should not be cheap about it, and if we choose to be cheap about it, then we cannot expect a sense of security.

We must be clear on what is happening and understand the system, the security guard, the CPO, the reality, and be on the same page. The security guard deployed is not just deployed at your house to open and close a gate. A security guard is no good without the right infrastructure and right guidance. Cameras are useless if not placed by someone who knows about placement and angles, which take into consideration safety and security. Lighting is pointless if they are placed with no planning and just for the sake of placement.

A CPO is at a higher risk if he or she isn’t guided properly or is not aware of the clients specific needs and threat levels at the time of employment, and accountability needs to be placed on the security company you are hiring – ask them for a few candidates to be jointly interviewed before deployment; make yourself a part of the process and get involved. Ensure that during selection, the individual who you decide on is capable in crisis, understands basic safety procedures, can read and write and knows how to handle a variety of emergency situations, both man-made and nature caused. Our organization strives to ensure that these core areas are met and what we do not advise, we do not endorse – that is a mantra I feel we all need to adopt when it comes to this subject.

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