Police rely on ‘outdated technology’ to nab motorway case prime suspect

Updated 24 Sep 2020

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“Our multiple teams are working on various leads and the suspect will be apprehended soon,” IGP Inam Ghani said. — Reuters/File
“Our multiple teams are working on various leads and the suspect will be apprehended soon,” IGP Inam Ghani said. — Reuters/File

LAHORE: Even after a lapse of two weeks or so and three failed attempts, the ill-equipped Lahore police are ‘groping in the dark’ for the arrest of motorway gang-rape case prime suspect Abid Malhi.

The delay in the arrest of the suspect has resulted in public anguish on social media against police. The Punjab police higher-ups admit that they have yet to trace prime suspect Abid Malhi but affirmed that he would be held soon.

“Our multiple teams are working on various leads and the suspect will be apprehended soon,” IGP Inam Ghani told Dawn. He declined to share more details about the police efforts.

An officer who spoke on the request of anonymity lamented that one of the major reasons behind the failure of the Lahore police in tracing the prime suspect was a ‘lack of the latest technology’. Another reason, he said, was incompetence of many police officers.

Most of the time, he said, the police teams searched for the suspects in fields of small districts instead of tracing them through the latest technologies. As the police teams arrested suspect Shafqat Ali, they were not working on the case with the spirit they showed until a few days after the incident due to the pressure mounted on social media.

The official said the Lahore police personnel were using an outdated equipment — 2G mobile phone call locator — to trace Abid Malhi, the man wanted in the high profile crime. The police had been using this gadget for the last many years ignoring the latest modern equipment and 4G smartphone communications to trace the wanted criminals, he said.

“The prime suspect is probably using 4G smartphone and we are chasing him with 2G locators,” the official said.

Lahore Capital City Police Officer Umar Sheikh confirmed to Dawn over phone that police were using the outdated system.

A source said that at present there were only three 2G mobile phone locators — one each with Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi police. These were purchased some five years ago by the Punjab police — each at a cost of Rs80 million from a German company Rohde & Schwarz.

With the passage of time, the cellular companies upgraded the system shifting it to 4G to meet the growing needs of modern age. The Punjab police, however, kept depending upon the 2G locators though the Counter Terrorism Department reportedly purchased a 4G system for its own use.

In the international market, the rate of a 4G mobile phone call locator is Rs300 million, he said. During Covid-19 pandemic, its price dropped considerably from Rs300 million to Rs100 million when two more companies of Ukraine and Turkey introduced the same brand which created competition in the market.

About the case, another official said a joint team of the police had launched operations in the hideouts of Abid in Sheikhupura, Kasur and Nankana Sahib since Sept 9, the day the ghastly incident took place at the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.

“First time we missed a golden chance of his arrest during a raid on his house in Sheikhupura where he had reached a few hours after committing the heinous crime,” he said. Later, on Sept 13, the police got to know through human intelligence that Abid had taken shelter in the house of his relatives living in Rao Khan Wala village of Kasur.

The police surrounded the village and made heavy deployment in the two-kilometre radius but the suspect again managed to flee. The police, however, took into custody his five relatives including his two cousins from the village, he said, adding that the officials shifted them to Lahore.

He said the police prepared another massive operation when it was tipped off that Abid Malhi was in the house of his sister-in-law in Nankana Sahib on Sept 15. They again failed to accomplish the task, he added.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2020