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News : Karachi Police Helpline On Quest to Crackdown on Prank Calls
Karachi, Pakistan, Jan 17, 2016 -- Seated next to the phone, Muhammad Iqbal Qaimkhani looks at the receiver loathingly. He is an operator at the police helpline, Madadgar-15, for the last five years, but the obnoxious prank calls have drained his desire to serve.
"We are here to help the citizens – not for their entertainment," says Qaimkhani in frustration. "But the people of Karachi use us a toy to play with in their spare time," he adds, sharing that a majority of the culprits are women and children. "They call and abuse us. Women in particular sometimes use obscenities that I can’t even share with you," he says of the profanities pranksters shower them with.
Qaimkhani explains it’s a way for people to kill time. "Women sitting idle at home have nothing to do so they call Madadgar-15 and start teasing us. Children, too, call us when their parents leave their mobile phones at home."
Since emergency calls can be made even without network coverage, most of the prank calls are made from phones without SIM cards. "SIM cards of numbers through which we frequently received prank calls have been blocked, but what can be done about calls made from phones without SIM cards?" asks Qaimkhani. "It is unfortunate that because of such prank calls many citizens are unable to get help from the police on time," he laments, saying the calls result in undue traffic on our telephone lines.
Madadgar-15 was established in 2000 by then IG Sindh Aftab Nabi at the Central Police Office. In 2007, when Kamal Shah was appointed IG, he decided to de-centralise Madadgar-15. However, in 2008, then IG Babar Khattak again centralised the helpline.
The superintendent police (SP) of the Muhafiz Force holds additional charge of Madadgar-15, which has 35 lines. Operators tend to landlines and walkie-talkies round-the-clock in three shifts. However, there are less than 100 staffers to attend to more than 15,000 calls they receive in a day.
"Following the complaint, the operator immediately informs the relevant police station via wireless. He also makes a phone call to the police station for verification," explains the spokesperson for Sindh police. "The issue of prank calls is a serious matter and has to be resolved," he says. "But the good thing is that the large number of calls made to the helpline shows that people trust the police."
According to official data, nearly 85 per cent of the calls made to Madadgar-15 helpline in Karachi turned out to be bogus. These calls were traced back to pranksters trying to take the law enforcers for a ride. In some cases, the callers made their intentions clear by indulging in flippant conversation from the get-go, while in others the police only learnt of the false alarm when a team was dispatched to investigate.
In 2015, more than four million – 4,151,447 to be exact – calls were received on the helpline, of which more than 3.5 million – 3,522,434 – were prank calls. In a quest to crackdown on these prank calls, IG Sindh Ghulam Haider Jamali has now called for initiating action under the law against such culprits.
"The IG reviewed the overall performance of Madadgar-15 during 2015 and called on police officers to also keep in view the significance of SMS alerts and take necessary steps for their initiation," shared the spokesperson. "Recordings of phone calls revealed that policemen were successful in responding promptly [to the complaints]."
A police report available with The Express Tribune states that 31,807 calls were about various disputes, 2,198 about fire incidents, 2,571 about muggings, 8,487 about traffic accidents, while 5,067 pertained to other incidents. It adds that the police managed to arrest 3,079 alleged thieves, robbers and other suspects by promptly responding to the complaints. Moreover, 198 children were found and handed over to their parents, while 2,507 cars and 4,102 motorcycles were also recovered and handed over to their respective owners.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2016