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Long wait for footage about Matiullah’s abduction – which is superior RTI law or Police rules?

Islamabad: Few days after the abduction of senior journalist Matiullah Jan from Islamabad’s Sector G-6, PPP former Senator Farhatullah Babar wrote an application to the Ministry of Interior, seeking footage of Jan’s abduction from the security camera installed at the location under the Safe City Security Project.

Mr Babar says he has approached the Interior Ministry under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017, which allows every citizen of Pakistan to get information of his/her interest from any public sector body or department.

The former Senator says that the provided footage, which is already available on social media, is blurring and nothing can be identified, adding that he is particularly interested in the CCTV footage of the camera installed at the location under the Safe City Security Project.

The concerned ministry didn’t respond to the senior politician under the right to information law, even though he sent multiple reminders to the ministry.

He, after waiting for around three months, registered a complaint with the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC), requesting to ensure provision of the said camera footage under the RTI law.

The Ministry of Interior after the intervention of Pakistan Information Commission provided footage to the former Senator.

Also read: PIC issues show-cause notice to Interior ministry for not complying with its orders

According to Mr Babar, the provided footage is of the video which had already gone viral on social media, but not of the security camera installed at the Government Girls School G-6/1-3 Islamabad.

The former Senator has again approached the Commission for the said footage and waiting for the action.

It is to mention here that section 5(1) of the said law allows every citizen to avail camera footage at public places, wherever available and have a bearing on a crime.

However, the concerned police department, when asked about the SOPs for citizens to avail footage of these cameras, stated that due to sensitivity of the precious data, video/footage of incidents the information is not provided to citizens.

The footage, if required, is only provided to the authorized officer of the concerned police station in any case, the document states.

There are many countries in the world employ public video surveillance as a primary to monitor movements and to prevent crime and terrorism both in the private and public sectors.  Pakistan has been included since 2019 when it launched its first Safe City Security Cameras Project for Islamabad.

According to the document available with The Reporters, the project’s initial cost was more than $124.97 million.

Maintenance Expenditure: The federal government allocated Rs112,200,000 budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 ; of which Rs59,228,373 was spent on the maintenance of security cameras. Similarly, the federal government allocated Rs40,000,000 for the fiscal year 2019-20; of which Rs91, 088,075 was spent on the maintenance of the security cameras.

The official document states that currently 195 police officials are deployed for the monitoring of 1,905 cameras as a stop gap arrangement.  As many as182 security cameras are installed in Sector F-6 which is the highest number of security cameras installed in any sector of Islamabad, following 169 security cameras installed in Sector G-5.

To get the police viewpoint about the project and its effectiveness for public security, this correspondent approached the concerned officers, including SP Farooq Butter, but could not get their response.

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