Manama: Bahrain’s police chief has denied claims that the police have issued special cards to nationals to arrest vandals.

“The police have not issued special cards authorising citizens in Muharraq or other areas to arrest vandals and hold them until police arrive,” said Major General Tareq Al Hassan, chief of public security.

“Bahrain police operate within the law and such cards are not legally permitted. Criminal procedures are handled by the authorities. Investigations and the arrest of criminals are inherent duties of the police,” the official said.

Media reports emerged over the weekend in Bahrain claiming that, under the Municipal Friends scheme to be launched by the Municipality of Muharraq, residents of the second largest city in Bahrain, would be “issued identity cards to protect public parks and gardens, roads, sewerage networks and electricity substations” following numerous complaints about acts of sabotage and arson.

However, the plan waded into controversy, particularly after it was equated on social networks with the establishment of militias targeting anti-government demonstrators.

Several Bahrainis expressed concerns that the scheme, as it was presented, would not help ease a tense situation compounded by a bitter political impasse and the stagnation of the national dialogue launched more than 100 days ago to help heal deep fissures within the society. Others said that “the picture was missing elements” and that details were needed to explain the idea and define its limits.

Muharraq municipal councillors said that there had been unfortunate misinterpretations of the scheme and that the intent was to boost social community services.

“The protection of public utilities is the responsibility of professional guards, either policemen or those hired by private security companies and who are trained to handle those duties,” Major General Al Hassan said in his statement. “Anyone with a complaint regarding security procedures should submit their complaints to the appropriate governorate or the nearest police station,” he said.