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‘SOS’ call from Chinese embassy in Islamabad keeps law enforcers on their toes

Updated January 25, 2019

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“Panic buttons installed in embassies to seek help in an emergency situation — not to check our preparations.” — File
“Panic buttons installed in embassies to seek help in an emergency situation — not to check our preparations.” — File

ISLAMABAD: After receiving a SOS call from the embassy of China, which a police officer said was unjustified, the capital police, paramilitary troops and the army along with emergency and rescue officials reached the premises within minutes.

However, once in the embassy located in Diplomatic Enclave, the law enforcement agencies were informed that the alarm had been sent out only to check the response time and preparedness of the departments.

A senior police officer, who requested anonymity, was of the view that the embassy cannot check the response time and preparedness of the law enforcement agencies or send out such an alarm.

“Panic buttons are installed in embassies to seek help in a disaster or emergency situation, not to check our preparations or performance,” the officer maintained.

Besides, he added, there was no need for checking the preparedness of the law enforcement agencies and the rescue department since a mock exercise had already been conducted in the Chinese embassy last month.

The mock exercise conducted in the embassy in December was planned by a senior police officer and the diplomats had been informed about it in advance, he said.

At around 3:15pm on Thursday, alarms installed at the offices of senior police officers and paramilitary troops started ringing, another officer said. Shortly afterward, a message was aired through the police communication system about the SOS call from the embassy.

The Quick Response Force reached the embassy within three minutes, he said. Officers of the police commandoes, Anti-Terrorism Force, Bomb Disposal Squad, Counter-Terrorism Force, Rangers, Special Branch, Crime Investigation Department, Crime Investigation Agency and the Islamabad Traffic Police reached the embassy within 20 minutes.

Besides, officials from 111 Brigade also reached the embassy, he said.

When the officials and the rescue teams cordoned off the enclave, the embassy staff informed them that the SOS call was made to check the response of the departments concerned.

A mock exercise was conducted there and later the teams returned to their stations, said the officer.

A police spokesman said an emergency call was made by the Chinese embassy to check the response of the police to tackle any untoward situation. Soon after the call, he added, the law enforcement agencies reached the spot.

“The purpose of this rehearsal was to check preparations of law enforcers to tackle an untoward situation.”

He said officials of the Chinese embassy thanked the personnel while DIG (security) Waqar Ahmed Chohan appreciated the performance of the law enforcement agencies for responding quickly.

Chinese embassy spokesman Yang Ming could not be contacted for comments.

Foreign Office spokesman Dr Faisal told Dawn that he would have to check and verify if the mock exercise was conducted. He said he would also check the standard operating procedure (SOP) from the chief protocol officer before commenting.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2019