Lahore ‘safe city project’ suffers setback, thousands of cameras go out of service

LAHORE: Safe City Project of Lahore, that was all set to make the provincial capital, first safe city of not only Pakistan but South Asia has suffered a serious blow under incumbent Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) led provincial government.

Thousands of cameras installed in the metropolis are either out of order or being stopped by the Chinese company due to payments dispute with local authorities, exposing general public to risk of a potential lawlessness.

The safe city project comes under Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA) established through a legislation in 2015.

Besides, this project for dwellers of provincial metropolis of Lahore, the previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), under a comprehensive project; Punjab Police Integrated Command Control & Communication (PPIC), had planned to develop similar safe city projects in Gunranwala, Multan, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Sargodha.

The aim of these initiatives was to equip the authorities in these urban centers with modern technology to deal with crime, traffic issues and provide people friendly policing services in the province.

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The previous provincial government had worked to establish PSCA as a multi-billion mega project under the Punjab Safe Cities Ordinance 2015, in order to utilize technology to provide quality life in the metropolitan.

Under the project and the ordinance promulgated by the provincial Assembly in 2015 a governing body headed by elected representatives, and includes officials and representatives of general public, supervises the project.

A National Assembly member, three members of provincial assembly- at least one of them a women member, Chief Secretary, Inspector General of Police (IGP), secretaries of the Home and Finance departments, Chairman Punjab Information Technology Board, heads of district police of the cities, three eminent persons, including at least one woman from the general public or academia, having knowledge of and exposure to law enforcement or other related information technology based projects and PSCA managing director were to be part of the core team.

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As part of first initiative, Lahore Safe City Project was launched in May 2016 which was designed to ensure security and protection of people.

Intelligent traffic management system, anti-terrorism monitoring network, integrated emergency response, modern communication system and other features were components of the initiative, introduced under the project for first time in the history of the country.

The provincial metropolis was deprived of this modern facility, as more than half of the Lahore city is now out bonds from the authority of the PCSA.

This has happened due to lack of financial resources required to handle the project as well as management issues with PSCA..

Sources said almost 4000 cameras (50 per cent of PSCA Cameras) of the project are offline. Moreover, another over 4,000 cameras belonging to the Lahore Safe City project are no longer working after a dispute between the project administration and the Chinese company managing the cameras.

In order to realize the vision of developing safe cities in the province, PPIC Center was established for Punjab Police in Lahore. Similar centers were to be established in other large cities of the province.

Recently, PSCA identified 2000 locations for installing more than 10,000 cameras for surveillance through a comprehensive survey. That include; covering public institutions, key infrastructure, public roads, crime spots, VVIP routes, entry and exit points places.

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The dispute started when Rs1 billion dues were not paid by the incumbent provincial government.  For not being paid Chinese company, closed down the cameras-including  CCTV cameras across Lahore to monitor crime and traffic violations.

The PSCA has decided to take action against the company as it says if something happens in the city and the cameras are off, the company will be responsible.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was also briefed about the issue during his recent visit to Lahore, but the issue is still unresolved.

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