Anarkali blast probe: Investigators rudely awakened to faulty Safe City cameras

Published January 24, 2022
Security officials inspect the site of a bomb blast at a busy shopping district in Lahore on January 20. — AFP/File
Security officials inspect the site of a bomb blast at a busy shopping district in Lahore on January 20. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) appears to be a ‘white elephant’ for the police as most CCTV cameras were offline and failed to track down the suspected terrorist who planted explosive at Anarkali.

The prime aim of launching the project was to prevent terrorism.

An official told Dawn that officials of the law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) were surprised to find out many cameras of the safe city authority dysfunctional.

“We were hopeful that the man who planted bomb at the heavily crowded Pan Mandi of Anarkali would be tracked down through the PSCA cameras which would help resolve the high-profile case,” he said. He said as the suspect was detected through privately installed CCTV cameras at Anarkali while leaving the crime place, the officials of the LEAs kept on tracking him. His presence was detected at Sabzi Mandi, the official said.

Later, he said, the suspect went out of the radar of CCTV cameras of the Punjab Safe City Authority because some of them were not functioning at that time.

“This situation is disappointing for the high command of the LEAs during high-profile meetings which were exclusively convened in the wake of the Anarkali terrorism case,” the official said. He lamented that the prime purpose of setting up the project proved futile when it failed to give a lead to the police and the other investigation agencies in tracing the terrorist.

“Only 30 per cent cameras have been offline in Lahore for long,” PSCA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) DIG Kamran Khan told Dawn. The officer holds charge of multiple assignments in the Authority and the cameras have not been functioning for the last two years or so during his tenure in the project.

Earlier, an additional IG rank police officer (of BS-21) was heading the project as managing director (MD) besides two police officers of DIG rank who were discharging key functions against various other assignments.

The official source said the Authority had failed to deliver and the issue of faulty cameras went unreported. He claimed out of 101 4G towers, two were completely down and most were without the backup facility.

“That means when electricity is out the 15 calls can’t be passed to the police due to the weak 4G signals,” he said, adding that the PSCA faced the worst time when rains recently hit Lahore as 92 4G towers went offline because of a lack of backup.

Consequently, out of around 8,000 cameras, nearly 2,000 are functioning. He said PUCAR-15 which receives emergency 15 calls from all over Punjab is facing problems as seven computer systems are out of order.

“The remaining 33 systems have broken headphones and some have no headphones at all,” he said.

The official further said the transport facility for the police communication officers has been suspended for the last one month.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2022

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