ISLAMABAD - The police, on a tip-off from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), thwarted a major terrorist attack in the capital last month with the use of security cameras of Safe City Project, the Islamabad IGP revealed yesterday.

“We saved the capital from Mumbai-style terror attacks,” he said and declined to give more details about the arrests in this regard.

“We thwarted this attack plot through enhancement of security and snap checking of vehicles under the Safe City Project and I think the money spent on the project has yielded its fruits with the foiling of this biggest terror bid,” Islamabad IGP Tariq Masood Yaseen told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior.

“We were ready to cut the cake with the complete operationalisation of the project when the same evening ISI informed me at a meeting about the biggest terrorist threat the city was facing,” said the IGP, adding this became a test case for the Safe City Project. He told the committee that the Islamabad police worked round the clock to foil the terror bid by increasing security and identifying suspicious vehicles for snap checking through security cameras.

The much-delayed Islamabad Safe City Project was inaugurated on the 6th of the last month with the installation of 1,850 modern surveillance cameras around the capital and establishment of a command and control centre in Sector H-11. The project was completed at a cost of 124.917 million US dollars through a loan given by the Chinese government. It had the capacity to monitor entry and exit points of the capital, its roads, commercial centres, important buildings etc.

However, the remarks of the IGP triggered displeasure for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. In his informal talk with journalists, Nisar said the police chief should not have made this statement in public as this had caused a wave of fear among them. “We should avoid giving such statements,” he averred.

According to sources, the police had received a tip-off from the premier intelligence agency that terrorists were planning to attack Quaid-e-Azam University, one of the biggest public sector varsities of the country, and a local hotel. The agency had traced some phone calls knowing about planning of the terrorists. The terrorists also wanted to make some people hostage from the hotel building.

The IGP, briefing the Senate committee which met under the chairmanship of Senator Rehman Malik, said the biggest issue in the smooth functioning of Safe City Project was that its end user was not decided. He said, “National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was the executing agency, Chinese company, Huawei, was to complete it and then Nadra was to hand it over to the police. The matter has been resolved now as Islamabad Police would be its end user and we have linked Rescue-15 and Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) to the command and control centre of the project. The organisational setup for the project was being devised as an officer of SP rank would head it and the system of the project is based on challenge and response.”

“The project has been extended through smart police cars as the cameras cannot cover some areas of the capital,” the IGP said, adding these smart cars would be linked with the command centre and could search areas through the cameras installed in these vehicles. “We have brought out another aspect of the project, research and training with regard to the security, and efforts were being made to sign an MOU with a public university,” he said. “Safe City Project is going to be a centre of excellence for research and training. Similarly, Huawei, the contractor of the project, has agreed to make training modules and train 1,000 personnel to run the project,” the IGP said, adding there was a need to shift the police from traditional ways of policing to modern technology.

The project director of Safe City Project, Dr Tahir Akram, told the committee that installation and commissioning of the project was complete. Not a single camera was damaged because of the recent rainstorm in the capital, he claimed and added criminals’ data would be fed in the database to trace them through the security cameras.

SSP Traffic Malik Matloob told the Senate committee that Islamabad Traffic Police was being equipped with modern gadgets and old challan books were being replaced with e-ticketing system. “We are switching to android mobile system where violation fee could be paid on line through the gadgets with traffic officers,” he affirmed. He pointed out the online challan system would have complete history of any licence holder’s violations and his/her licence would be cancelled if violations crossed a certain limit. “The online system would be attached with the excise and taxation office and the crime investigation department of the police,” he asserted. He said efforts were underway to link the provincial driving licences’ data with ITP to check the history of any traffic violator.

The committee viewed laws would have to be amended to match with the new technology-based system. The committee would give its recommendations to amend the laws and increase penalties over some traffic violations, Rehman Malik said.

The additional interior secretary informed the lawmakers that negotiations with the provinces were underway to have a central database of criminals for the support of Safe City Project.

On a query from the committee members, the acting Nadra chairman said the authority had not stopped issuing or renewing NICOPs (National Identity Cards for Overseas Pakistanis and POCs (Pakistan Origin Cards). Only the issuance or renewal of POCs to foreign spouses of Pakistani nationals had been made conditional with the security clearance, he said.

The Ministry of Interior showed its reluctance to give a briefing to the committee on the implementation of the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP). It is worth mentioning that briefing on NAP was on the agenda of the meeting. The additional secretary said the interior minister had briefed the National Assembly on the NAP implementation in detail some two months back. “The National Assembly has its own importance and the committee its own,” remarked Rehman Malik.