The police are now in the final phase of acquisition of the technology, known as a GSM Caller Location Identification System. As the name implies, it will allow the authorities to trace which location a cellphone call is being made from.
This will be key in investigating several different types of crimes, but will be particularly useful in kidnapping for ransom cases.
The question of whether or not the police have the authority to use such equipment, however, remains unanswered.
Under the existing arrangements, only intelligence agencies can use, or offer the use of, such technology.
“The police are not allowed to have such a system or technology,” admitted a senior police official who wished not to be named. “We are going through with our plans to acquire the system but we would definitely only use it when it’s mandated to us. Acquisition of such modern and sensitive systems takes time.”
The sources at the Central Police Office (CPO) said that several companies with expertise in the area have shown an interest in helping the police acquire the system, and have already appeared before officials to explain the features of their services.
It should be noted that the police have already been turned down when they requested authorisation to have access to cellular phone subscribers’ data, including records of calls and SMSs, through cellphone service providers.
The intelligence agencies, however, have this authorisation, and the police must turn to them when they require it.
“Under the existing arrangements, for investigations of any case, we need to seek help from the intelligence agencies, mostly through the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC),” said a senior police investigation officer.
“If we need data of any cellular connection or personal data of the subscriber, the mobile phone companies don’t entertain our request directly. A set procedure is followed and that’s the SOP [Standard Operating Procedure].”
Though there is no word from the police authorities to justify the move without a go-ahead from their high-ups and security hierarchy, experts involved in handling criminal cases in close coordination with the investigators see the technology as the need of the hour for effective policing.
“We support such a move made by the police,” said Ahmed Chinoy, the chief of the CPLC. “The growing use of technology by criminals demands the same facility for police to counter their designs and major acts of crime. The police around the world are privileged to use such technology. So why not in Pakistan, where we face multi-dimensional security threats along with regular crimes?”
He said the existing arrangements did not suit the investigators, which took time and needed to engage several institutions to get even a single piece of information.
The caller location tracking technology was badly needed, he added, in investigation of almost every kidnapping for ransom case.
“Most of the time, we need to move faster for the security of a kidnap victim’s life, as well as the arrest of the kidnappers,” said Mr Chinoy. “But under the current SOP, the police need to follow certain rules and procedure, which takes times and puts everything, including the life of the victim, at risk.”
To assure proper and legitimate use of the system, the CPLC chief said, a mechanism could be designed that kept a check on the police, denying the opportunity for the misuse of the technology by law enforcers.
“The issue of misuse can be handled through certain arrangements and we can play our role in this regard if required. But one can’t deny the police such a technology or system, which is badly needed, only on these grounds,” he concluded.