Guest Post by Syed Omair Ali

Tomorrow 6 June marks the first anniversary of the launch of Islamabad Safe City project.

This anniversary piece reflects on what we have achieved so far, see what is in store for us with respect to metropolitan security and what it has to offer to a common citizen.

CPEC and the projects associated with it cover a vast canvas of development. Some components are directly part of CPEC while others relate to it in one way or the other.

CPEC primarily consists of its core routes and the domains that complement it. It includes energy sector, alternate energy, dams and related infrastructure, shipping and logistics, communication and metropolitan security.

While each domain of CPEC adds value to the nation in its own flavour, the component of metropolitan security is the one that will have a direct touchpoint with a common citizen.

Projects termed as Safe City projects have recently surfaced in Islamabad and Lahore.

These projects are related to security and surveillance of the cities and they empower police, traffic police, city administration and other related departments to manage the city effectively.

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The Islamabad Safe City project

The Islamabad Safe City project is currently in operational phase under Islamabad Police and its executing agency Nadra with the support of its vendor Huawei Technologies, the largest globally known Chinese brand.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan inaugurated the project on 6 June 2016. Since then, the project has added value on several occasions and incidents.

Political events like PTI jalsa of April 2016 in F9 Park, Qadri sit-in protest at D-Chowk in March 2016, Muharram 2015 & 2016, Ramzan 2016, monitoring of Islamabad during a major windstorm in summer of 2016, arrests of inter-provincial car theft gang are a few incidents in which the solution played a critical role.

Other than large events, a lot of cases get resolved with the help of this solution on routine basis where the solution provides support in terms of forensics such as vehicle tracking, location identity, identity management, drive pattern and behaviour analysis. It is not only that the police uses the facility directly but it also empowers other LEAs (law enforcement agencies).

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The Lahore Safe City project

The Lahore Safe City project, a project based on Huawei’s solution is in its deployment phase and will be completed by the end of the current year.

The project was launched by Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif last year in October during the Muharram timelines and one of the key events it supported was the Muharram activities last year.

In addition, it played a very critical role in the security of the PSL final match that was splayed at Qaddafi Stadium.

It was a credit for the Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA), the execution agency of Lahore Safe City Project that security officials of all ICC member nations visited the Lahore Safe City Command Center and expressed their satisfaction over the arrangement and appreciated the solution and its capabilities.

Safe City projects in six Punjab cities

Besides Lahore, PSCA is now working on six more cities to launch a similar project. These cities include:

  1. Multan
  2. Rawalpindi
  3. Sargodha
  4. Bahawalpur
  5. Faisalabad
  6. Gujranwala

Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi are known to be extremely sensitive in terms of their security situation. Each city has its own unique challenges.

Safe City projects in Sindh, KP and Balochistan

The Sindh government has recently appointed a consultancy to work on the project. Similarly, the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has floated a tender for the appointment of a consultant. The Government of Balochistan has gone through the exercise of tendering and may be ready to award the project.

It is expected that these three projects will kick off within this year.

More on other Pakistani cities

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Karachi 6th least liveable city in the world

Peshawar is the world’s second most polluted city

Quetta and Peshawar among 20 most terrorist prone cities in the world

After Lahore, six more to become safe cities

Karachi’s Killers by FP’s Ivan Sigal

Pakistan 5th among terrorism-affected countries

Karachi airport attack ‘humiliating security breach for army, spy service’: NYT

Karachi gets its first female SHO

Pakistan world’s least expensive country: World Bank

Safety and security of the nation and its major cities is a basic element to make the environment conducive for any economic activity. Cities like Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta have suffered considerably because of both terrorism and street crimes, which over a period of time crippled the businesses in these cities.

While we talk about initiatives such as CPEC and the magnitude of economic activity associated with it, such safety projects become a necessity. They directly empower the local police and city administration to monitor the cities, manage the traffic, deliver rescue services, fire and safety services to its citizens in a seamless way.

The entire concept of safe cities or metropolitan surveillance is not new to the world.

Safe City projects in world capitals

From London to Makkah, from Dubai to Nairobi, from Bangkok to Beijing (see top photo), there are hundreds of such deployments across the globe.

China has installed approximately 20 million cameras across its different cities. London has a deployment of about half a million cameras and this makes it a ratio of 1 camera for every 14 citizens.

Without identifying the number, Dubai police in 2015 claimed a satisfactory blanket coverage of Dubai with surveillance cameras and shared that Dubai airport alone had a camera count upgrade from 600 to 3,000, which clearly reflects the magnitude of the deployment in Dubai.

Safe City projects in holy cities

Holy sites such as Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah and Madinah, to Karbala in Iraq to Vatican City, Italy, in all are populated with cameras. The Ministry of Hajj & Umrah in Saudi Arabia along with its police and other LEAs monitor Hajj operations and movement of hujjaj with more then 1,700 cameras.

A common question that triggers our thoughts is: how much secure does a city become after such deployment?

To understand this, one needs to first understand that security is something that cannot be measured on a scale; there is no measurement to it. Three elements, people, product and processes play a vital role in weaving the security fabric of any city.

Technology is an enabler that assists as a visual aid, audio video communication, identify management of vehicles and individuals, forensic analysis and provides means of convenient access of citizens to acquire the services.

Such projects are a journey of change – a change of how routine policing is likely to evolve by embracing the latest set of technology.

Syed Omair Ali | Public Safety Leader | Experienced Technologist | Strategy Consultant | Influencer | Linkedin | Twitter: @syedomair

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