No checks and balances on security companies that are mushrooming in Bangladesh
It is not a new revelation that private security service companies in Bangladesh have no regulatory regime and that they are run on mere trade license. But the way they are mushrooming despite the possibility of militants masquerading as private security staff is indeed a matter of concern. Dhaka Tribune, which broke the ‘news’ today attributes the growth of private security companies to the absence of a regulator to keep a hawkish eye on them. Estimates put their number at around 700 with around 400 thousand security guards on their rolls. Shopping malls, banks, residential areas and apartment buildings have engaged them besides some important government offices.
“Anyone can launch a security service business with a licence from city corporations or municipality authorities. But, if the agencies want an arms licence for their guards, they have to sign a contract and take permission either from the district administration or from the Home Ministry,” Mohammad Shah Alam Sarker, general secretary of Bangladesh Security Services Companies Owners Association, told Dhaka Tribune’s Tarek Mahamud. He said 450 of the 700 security companies are members of his association.
Shah Alam said that police detectives have since started vetting the guards to prevent militants masquerading as security staff. This followed intelligence inputs that militants are taking up jobs as security guards. “To check the possible inclusion of militants, we are working on integrating all the agencies into our association so that none can conduct unlawful activities camouflaging as an employee of a security service provider,” Shah Alam said
According to security analyst Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid, there is no need for alarm as of now. “So far we have not seen unlawful activities being carried out by staff of the agencies. Yet, there have to some specific regulations to monitor them and to evade possible untoward situations, because there is a chance that people with ill intent may conduct illegal activities using the names of security service providers,” he was quoted as saying in Dhaka Tribune.
It is not there were no efforts to rein in the security firms. But all such steps did not yield any results. Shah Alam said: “During the last caretaker government, then Home Affairs advisor Maj Gen (retd) MA Matin proposed to formulate a law, Private Security Regulation 2007, for the agencies. But it did not see the light of day due to some complexities.”
The initiative did not progress, as some of the agencies moved the courts.
No code of conduct
Some 15 to 20 security firms have made a mark with their “distinctive, high-quality” services; most others are operating according to their whim as they do not have to face any questions from the authorities concerned, according to a security service provider. Moreover there is no specific code of conduct defined by the government for them.
During a visit to different establishments, the Dhaka Tribune correspondent found most of the guards too aged to properly perform their duties.
Some of them said that while recruiting guards, the companies prioritise elderly people over capable, young candidates to reduce their costs, as the young people demand more money. This is bad news certainly.