Almost 50% of CCTV cameras of the Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA) in Lahore are reportedly offline due to a financial crisis, following a struggle between the police and bureaucracy to bring the Rs. 17 billion megaproject under their authority.
At a time when Pakistan Super League is just around the corner, nearly half of the provincial capital’s main roads, sensitive installations, and government buildings are out of PSCA’s range. Numerous mosques, churches, and temples are at risk as a result of non-functioning CCTVs. The E-Challan system has also stopped working.
An official at the PSCA said:
Certainly, this is an issue of grave concern that the PSCA cameras are not surveilling even the busiest locations like Faisal Chowk, Regal Chowk, and Ali Hajvery shrine and adjoining areas of the Lahore High Court where terror attacks had been witnessed in the past.
The multi-billion mega project established under the Punjab Safe Cities Ordinance 2015 had significantly improved the security and quality of life since its inception. PSCA has employed technology, infrastructure, personnel, and different processes to track down terrorists and their facilitators.
Earlier, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had approved a supplementary grant of Rs. 1.49 billion for PSCA, however, the finance department has disbursed only Rs. 200 million so far. As a result, PSCA’s operations, especially the CCTVs, have been stopped. A separate amount of Rs. 266 million approved by the standing committee of finance and development for clearing the outstanding dues of the technology vendor (Huawei Technologies) has not been released either.
Both amounts of Rs. 1.49 billion and Rs. 266 million were supposed to be disbursed by the end of the first week in November. However, the delay has resulted in half of the city being unmonitored. Moreover, Huawei Technologies had suspended the provision of technology for PSCA on December 1st, 2019.
Punjab Police and Bureaucracy’s Conflict
The tussle between Punjab police and bureaucracy peaked when the latter surreptitiously made a move to bring PSCA under its authority by amending the rules. Last year in April, the home department forwarded the summary to CM Punjab.
However, Punjab cabinet foiled bureaucracy’s attempt and directed the Punjab police to keep overseeing the operations of PSCA as per previously agreed arrangements. Ever since that day, PSCA has faced all sorts of financial and administrative challenges.
This power struggle has also delayed the completion of safe city projects in Rawalpindi and Murree. Whereas the safe city projects in Taunsa and D.G Khan are yet to start.
DIG Akbar Nasir Khan, Chief Operating Officer of the PSCA, has confirmed that 50% of Lahore is unmonitored as of today. DIG Akbar is hopeful that the finance department will disburse the funds soon and PSCA will resume its operations.
On the other hand, Punjab Finance Secretary, Abdullah Sumbal, says that the finance department has always provided maximum support to PSCA. An amount of Rs. 1400 million will be provided to PSCA quarterly to meet its basic operational requirements, said the finance secretary.