LAHORE: Rescue 1122 officials on Tuesday decided to initiate criminal proceedings against prank callers. 97 per cent of calls received at Rescue 1122 are prank calls.
Rescue 1122 director Dr Rizwan Naseer said that they had tried several methods to rid themselves of prank callers. This included blocking the number of habitual pranksters, warnings and politely explaining the importance of an emergency number. He said that educating some of the regular callers about the importance of the service did have the desired effect but the overall number of prank calls was still on the rise.
Dr Naseer said that Rescue 1122 had decided on legal remedies to combat this nuisance. He said that a prank caller could be imprisoned for six months or be fined Rs50,000 or get both punishments. Dr Naseer said that it was the moral responsibility of every citizen to respect the emergency number. He said, “We prefer that citizens understand the significance of an emergency number so that we don’t have to initiate criminal proceedings. Emergency victims should not be deprived of their right to timely attention because of prank callers.”
Analysis of non-emergency call data indicates that 43.98 per cent callers are boys, 37.63 girls and 7.28 per cent children. 1.87 per cent of the calls are musical, 3.48 per cent abusive, 1.30 per cent wrong numbers and 4.37 per cent irrelevant.
Dr Naseer said the decision to prosecute callers was taken after heads of several Rescue 1122 stations in various cities expressed serious concerns over how prank calls were affecting timely response to emergencies.
Muhammad Umar Farooq, a prank caller, told the The Express Tribune that he called the emergency number as a form of enjoyment. He said that he and some of his friends had an unregistered SIM which they used to make a prank call. He said that he also liked calling 15 and enjoyed seeing the police run around because of him. Farooq, also, admitted that on occasions he liked to sound like a girl using the voice changer facility on his mobile phone.
A 2nd year female student told The Express Tribune that she had placed many prank calls to 1122 and had spoken, at times, for over 15 minutes. Clearly, she said, the calls continue for this length because the operators enjoy chatting with a girl. She said she enjoyed the conversations especially as the number was free to call.
Rescue 1122 official Muhammad Nawaz Anjum told The Express Tribune that while in the past the operators were free to take personal calls, a monitoring system installed recently had put a stop to this practice. He said that a report on every call is sent to the provincial monitoring cell. Inquiries would be made against any operator found abusing the number, he added.
Under Section 24 of the Punjab Emergency Service Act 2006, a prank call is a crime. Advocate Qadir Masood said that the offence is bailable. He said that the punishment is either a fine of Rs50,000 or six months’ incarceration. He said that such trials may take up to two years.
Rescue 1122 spokesperson Fahim Jahanzeb told The Express Tribune that the Rescue 1122 officials will lodge FIRs at concerned police stations. He said they would soon hold a press conference to inform the public about it. He said so far no special campaign was planned.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2010.
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