Lahore: Akbar Ali lost his laptop, television set, jewelry, mobile phone and other belongings in an armed robbery and lodged a complaint with Muslim Town Police having no hope of a breakthrough.

To his surprise police not only arrested the culprit involved in the robbery using IMEI and location area code techniques of mobile tracking but also recovered all the stolen items on his identification, he told The News Lens Pakistan.

Ali’s is one of around 200 cases that Lahore police cracked since the launch of a pilot project of the mobile tracking system in the city.

After the success of the pilot project in Lahore, Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmad Sukehra ordered establishment of mobile phone tracking system across the province, disclosed Additional Inspector General of Police Operation Dr Arif Nawaz, who works with the Central Police Office, while speaking to the NewsLens Pakistan.

He said a two-week long training programme for district police officials is due to start and once it’s complete, mobile tracking units will be set up in all the police stations in Punjab. He said that the training programme has been divided into two parts. In the first part, participants would learn about International Mobile Phone Equipment Identity, International Mobile Subscriber Identity, Location Area Code and Cell ID. They would be asked to track mobile phones through IMEI, Geo-Tagging and IMSI in the second part of the training.  Senior officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) will also lecture participants on the subject.

Senior Superintendent of Police Kashif Mushtaq Kanju told The NewsLens Pakistan the programme would help improve response time and expedite arrest of criminals. He said the programme would help end police dependence on intelligence agencies to crack mobile phone data.  Policemen will learn state-of-the-art techniques that would improve working of Investigation and Operation wings of police across the province.

The Proliferation of cutting-edge gadgets has made it easier to nab criminals using mobile phone tracking techniques, he said.

Speaking to New Lens Pakistan, Lahore’s Deputy Inspector General of Police Operation Haider Ashraf said the experiment of introducing mobile tracking system to Lahore police is so far a success. Mobile tracking units have helped trace more than 200 criminals in one month keeping a check on street crime. He said two officials from mobile tracking unit— a constable and an upper subordinate — have been deputed at each police station in Lahore.

He said it is very encouraging for Lahore police that mobile tracking units are being introduced across Punjab, adding the system would go a long way in cracking high-profile cases of terrorism and kidnapping.  Police in major cities are better equipped than their counterparts in rural areas.  Training and technology will also help them work on modern lines and check use of illegal SIMs and pressure cellular companies to comply with rules while giving connections.

He rejected the notion that tracking a mobile is a violation of fundamental right of privacy saying “we only track data about criminals and their accomplices”.

“We do not track data about people at large. Use of this technology to track down stolen phones or nab criminals is a legally right.”

Constable Riasat Ali, who works with the mobile tracking unit in Lahore, told  News Lens Pakistan the training will hone police officials’ skills to arrest criminals in the shortest possible time.

Taking to News Lens Pakistan, Director of Digital Rights Foundation Nighat Dad termed it a violation of a fundamental right of privacy.

“Law enforcement agencies expand their surveillance capabilities at the expense of an individual’s privacy. Among all surveillance activities perhaps the most powerful is cell phone’s location tracking that is done warrantless without any judicial oversight and SOPs.”

She said that it is not only about knowing a person’s location but also about knowing massive information about identity and what he or she values. “The police should have to obtain a warrant based on reasonable evidence of suspicion before tracking down cell phones. Police department’s location tracking policies should be clear, available in public domain and protective of privacy,” she said.

Advocate Haider Raza of Lahore High Court, however,  told News Lens Pakistan that Chapter 13 of the Evidence Act allows police to use modern equipment to collect evidence so they (police) do not need a warrant from a court of law for mobile tracking of criminals.

Anwar Ahmed, a resident of Lahore, seemed a little apprehensive and said switching to new technology is not wrong in fact it will lead to better policing but “we have seen in the past that police force had misused authority.

“It is binding on police high-ups to ensure constables and upper-subordinates who will be part of mobile tracking units at police stations do not misuse their authority.”

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