ISLAMABAD: A technical evaluation will be carried out before the Islamabad police takes complete control of the Safe City project from Chinese partners, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) (Headquarters) Sarfraz Ahmed Falki told a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat took up the Safe City project, in which there is alleged to have been $124 million worth of corruption. The committee believed that the cost of the project was unreasonably high, and noted that relevant documents related to the project have gone missing in an effort to destroy evidence, ordering their recovery.

The meeting was told that 5pc of the payment to Huawei for the project remains.

Senate committee chair directs police to bind Chinese company to maintaining equipment for at least 10 years

Mr Falki told senators that Huawei, which was in charge of maintaining the Safe City cameras until May this year, is now pressing for the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the Police to take over.

He added that the inspector general of police thought it necessary for a technical audit of the project before taking ownership.

He said the project was executed by Nadra through Huawei. While the police have not taken over completely, Nadra staff and police constables sit at 50 stations in front of giant screens at the command and control centre to monitor activities.

In his presentation, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat told senators that the project was conceived of in the aftermath of the 2009 Marriott bombing, by the Ministry of Interior, and completed in December 2018.

“The project is intended to monitor. Cameras mounted on smart cars can recognise number plates and perform facial recognition. It is being used for intelligence gathering, and provides security through live coverage and helps take necessary action,” he said.

He said there is a screen larger than a room installed at the bomb-proof command and control centre in H-11, which is spread over five kanals.

Of the 1,944 cameras, 1,850 have been installed of which 200 are out of order.

“Religious establishments, markets, the National Assembly, private housing societies etc, are all connected to the Safe City cameras. Live coverage of important days and visiting dignitaries is shared with intelligence departments, such as Ten Corp, 111 Brigade and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), who also monitor events,” Mr Shafqaat said.

He also claimed that criminal activity had fallen since the cameras were introduced.

He said that since its soft launch in 201, the command centre has received three million calls, of which 132,000 were police-related. Since 2016, 1,508 incidents of crime were detected including 314 car thefts, 97 bike thefts, 2010 cases of mobile or purse snatching, 57 kidnappings, 63 burglaries and 331 accidents.

He said the project is also used to check traffic violations, and some 22,000 violations are recorded every day. He said once the system is connected to the Islamabad Traffic Police - as it is in Punjab - fines will be mailed to residential addresses to generate revenue. He added that four smart cars can respond in 10 minutes and send images back to the command centre.

Committee chair Senator Talha Mahmood directed Mr Falki to bind Huawei to remain in charge of maintaining equipment for at least 10 years.

He added: “We have no doubt that the Chinese have overcharged the Pakistani government for the project.”

At the request of Senator Azam Khan Swati, the committee chair directed the police not to take over the project until a technical assessment is carried out.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2019