There used to be a popular magical serial of fiction and TV shows in the past titled as ‘Ali Baba aur Chalis Chor’ (Ali Baba and forty thieves). Once riding on his donkey, the main character Ali Baba, incidentally sees a gang of thieves opening a secretly locked stone-door in a cave in a desolated area by chanting the musical words ‘Open Sesame.’ The door gets unlocked and the gang puts inside the cave their stolen gold coins. As Ali Baba repeats the exercise for many days, the gang gets suspicious by noticing a visible fall in the inventory of stolen goods. Consequently, the gang duly marks the house of Ali Baba to counter his moves.
Interestingly, we, too, in our administration of criminal justice in Pakistan have different modus oprandi on the side of criminals and the typical open sesame like passwords varying time to time to prevent, investigate and get the criminals convicted on the side of detective and law enforcement agencies. The criminals try to secure their doors by their specially devised locks whereas the detective agencies, instead of modern techniques, merely rely upon various ‘sounds’ in investigation including certain spoken phrases commonly used in typical style of our investigation. Thus, our typical investigator merely keeps on chanting the ‘magic’ words for opening the secret dens of criminals whether the it works or not.
Of course, the story is familiar as these days the government of the Punjab, under the headship of Chief Minister Punjab and some other hardworking and professional police officers like Akbar Nasir, has launched the much awaited structural initiative titled ‘Safe City Project’- a state of the art Integrated Command and Control Center (PPIC3) for the city of Lahore likely to be followed in other major cities of the province.
A huge screen acclaimed to be one of the biggest of its kind in the world was fitted at Qurban Lines and portrays a divergent look of an ultra modernised system at one hand and a traditionally dominated criminal pattern on the other. While physically standing along the edge of the screen, it amazingly imparts a sense and feeling of being present at a police headquarter of a most advanced nation like USA and UK at and simultaneously that of a backward and a complex society of ours on visuals of the ground on the other. Even the smallest thing like a hair-clip lying on the street of Bhaatti Gate could easily be visualised live on the screen miles away as if one was physically present on the street, and what to talk of surveillance of the criminals preparing, committing, or fleeing away from the scene after committing the crime if not veiled properly.
Well, structurally, our traditional policing system based upon ‘mukhbar’ or ‘informer’, ‘Khoji’ or rural private detector or even the skilled sniffer dogs coupled with various ‘degree’ gadgets including the ‘third degree’ may have certain merits and help at length our unskilled typical, low ranking investigator to prevent or trace the crime but structurally it has failed to cater to the modern investigational requirements required in any prevailing advanced policing system of the world. Consequently, it gives rise to a series of blame-shifts amongst the three major tiers of our criminal administration systems, i.e., investigation, prosecution and the judiciary. They all are ever ready to shift their responsibility upon each other in the event of any discharge or acquittals of the genuine criminals for lack of incriminating evidence.
Structurally, our policing lacks in certain areas such as prevention of crime before it is committed, tracing, arrest and conviction of the criminals through a court of law after the crime is committed.
There is no denying the fact that the traditional surveillance of crime before its commission which in the past relied mainly upon the various systems of intelligence including the services of the ‘informer’, the personal intelligence capabilities of the police officers and their socialisation to remain deep rooted in the society has lost ground. Neither do we find informers nor seasoned police officers who could help pre-empt the commission of offence under their areas of jurisdiction. The instant ‘Safe City Project’ has rightly endeavoured to plug this gap by introducing an effective live surveillance system by currently installation of around 500 cameras rising up to a number of 8000 till June, 2017.
Admittedly, the collection of evidence against the offenders is one the major drawbacks impeding the conviction rate in the courts of law and hence, the commission of crime rate. By virtue of this system, electronic evidence, if not the primary but the secondary evidence, shall be available to the investigator at least to put across corroborative evidence to prove the guilt of the offender beyond any iota of doubt leading to high rate of conviction, deterrence and the substantial fall in the crime ratio. This can further enhance appreciation of evidence if the electronic evidence collected through this system is declared admissible as primary evidence by necessary legislative amendments in Qanun-i-Shahadat Act, 1984. It shall further enhance the conviction rate and reduce the load of work on police resources as well as the courts.
Traffic policing is another area which becomes a major irritant amongst the people and the governance of day. The instant system may help effectively manage the traffic systems in the concerned towns by use of these ‘open sesame’ cameras to punish the lawbreakers at one hand and educate the public of traffic sense.
‘Quick response, slow reaction’ has ever been an effective tool for the management of affairs under any public or private governance in the world. Quick response to any emergency situation- crime occurrence, traffic haphazard or even any medical causality- resolves a hundred problems.
Under this acclaimed Integrated Emergency Response system through a single universal access telephone number (i.e. 15), under one roof the citizens are claimed to have quick response from the concerned police station, traffic post and the medical rescue by one call without feeling the need to know the name of the SHO, sergeant or the medical officer concerned. However, we have to see whether our officers as well as citizens respond in the manner as it is executed under 911 and 999 in USA and UK respectively. True, this system will reduce the bureaucratic lag but the same could only be reduced through enhanced capacity of the systems.
The project is to be completed in collaboration with the innocent Chinese human resources who may not be that aware of its suitability to the local psyche, genetic formation, trends and tendencies and laws. It is, however, to be run by the indigenous human resources known for first getting entry into service by nepotism, and then for lethargy and redundancy besides corruption, setting bad precedent. The sensitisation of the IT staff dealing with the system including criminal, traffic and health norms and professional workings shall be a key pre-requite to the success of the project which is actually alien to the cultural environment of our society. Necessary legislative amendments, such as electronic evidence to be admissible as primary evidence and appointment of magistrates to record on-spot statement of the accused under section 164 of the Cr. PC are necessary to make the system a success. Today, even specific intelligence reports are not addressed to pre-empt the offence; the traced criminals are not arrested and get convicted. The prosecutors, the judicial officers, the media and above all the crude investigating stuff shall have to be trained to deliver to the new system. In the past, many well conceived systems like ‘Safe City’ even with magical passwords of ‘open sesame’ failed to curb crime and many like Ali Baba could not render their charismatic services.