ISLAMABAD: A helpline set up by the country’s premier anti-terrorism watchdog to receive tip-offs about suspicious activity has been choked with hoax calls.
Data available with The Express Tribune shows that of the 58,591 calls received by the National Counterterrorism Authority (Nacta) helpline 1717 between January 9 and December 31, 2015, an overwhelming 57,046 (97.4%) were not about terrorism.
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According to sources, most of these calls included people ordering pizza, or requesting songs. They also received an inordinately high number of calls from women who had suffered abuse at the hands of their husbands.
The sources added that of all the calls they had received, a fraction, 1,545 calls were actionable.
Nacta’s helpline, a dedicated telephone line to report terrorism and terror-related complaints, was launched in December 2014 following the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on, which had left 147 people dead.
However, like other public helplines such as 16 for the fire brigade and 15 for police, the Nacta dedicated line has continued to face the same problem of hoax or unrelated calls.
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This despite an appeal from the Interior Ministry at the time of the helpline’s launch when it requested citizens to remain vigilant with regards to their surroundings and to use the dedicated number to report any suspicious person or activity.
But it seems as if the authority has now decided to take decisive action to filter out the ‘spam’.
Sources revealed that the authority has decided to seek the help of new software to identify the callers who made hoax calls. This software, according to well-placed sources, will be installed soon and will be linked to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to identify callers.
Once identified, Nacta could take action against helpline abusers.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2016.
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