Digital policing: Peshawar cops use app to store hotel visitors' data

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Operators at the Hotel Watch System at the Control Room in East Cantonment Police Station, Peshawar (Source: KP Police IT Center)
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Hotel employee in Peshawar entering guest details in the Hotel Watch application. (Photo by Arshad Yusufzai)
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Computer screen displaying Hotel Watch System at the Control Room in East Cantonment Police Station, Peshawar. (Source: KP Police IT Center)
Updated 19 January 2019

Digital policing: Peshawar cops use app to store hotel visitors' data

  • The app has helped check the records of 68,218 people in 233 hotels since its creation
  • It helps cross-check database of criminals and suspects

PESHAWAR: Hotel Watch, also knows as Hotel Eye, is a new android application launched last year to facilitate digital policing for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police by speeding up surveillance and verification at hundreds of hotels in Peshawar.

Talking to Arab News, Qazi Jamilur Rehman, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Peshawar said, “It is a criminal record and counter-check database of criminals including suspects wanted by the police and other law enforcing agencies.” 

According to Rehman, the app has so far helped check the records of 68,218 people in 233 hotels registered with the system. Since its launch in June last year, it has helped detain at least 61 wanted persons. 

“The app aids in the 24/7 monitoring of Peshawar hotels. A Hotel Watch Desk has been established at the control room East Cantonment Police Station which submits a weekly report to the CCPO office in the Central Police Offices in Peshawar,” he said.

Initially, the hoteliers resisted registering with the app, but after multiple awareness sessions, the police managed to power through and convince owners on its proposed security benefits. 

At the same time, random hotel inspections are carried out under the law and hotels violating the law in data sharing are warned of legal proceedings.

The idea of developing the application was first formed during operations against militants in various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and former Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Criminals moving between cities preferred to stay at low and mid-tier hotels instead of personal visits with families to avoid police encounters. But the Hotel Watch application is a powerful deterrent to criminals looking to find refuge at any of Peshawar’s registered hotels.

Asfandyar Wazir, Assistant Director Information Technology Centre leads a team of 10 technical employees who work round the clock operating the Hotel Watch application system. 

“Everyday, the system gets data for daily First Information Reports (FIR) from police stations all over the province,” he said.  

The process is straightforward. The name, national identity card and mobile number of every guest checking into the hotel is fed into the app.

“The data is received and automatically checked by powerful computers against different databases including that of the provincial police, army, and various intelligence agencies,” Wazir said. “The system triggers an alert in case a person has an active complaint against him/her in any police station or with any security agency.”

In such cases, the closest police station to the hotel is urgently informed and rapid action taken.

“More than 100 suspects, including at least 61 proclaimed offenders were taken into custody with the help of the application,” Wazir said.

The app has also made certain responsibilities easy for hoteliers. Aziz Gul, Manager at Hotel Grand in Peshawar said the app had made credential verification easy by guaranteeing criminals cannot bypass security mechanisms. 

“Hotel Eye helps us to improve our hotel security and reassures both us and our guests that no criminal is hiding in our hotel. It serves as an added security tool,” Gul said.

To guests, the app provided security, albeit a problematic one. Though many welcomed its use, some guests like Akbar Khan questioned if data privacy was really ensured and if the system was secure enough against malicious cyber attacks.

According to CCPO Qazi Jamilur Rehman, the police department intends to expand Hotel Watch to other big cities. “We will observe and eradicate any shortcomings and improve the service before expanding its scope,” he said.

In a troubled region still adapting to the merger of former tribal districts into its fold, the Hotel Watch application is proving its worth as a creative technical facility in a long and difficult road to successful policing in Khyper Pakhtunkhwa.


Pakistan says Afghan president’s comments on Pashteen’s arrest 'unwarranted'

Updated 27 January 2020

Pakistan says Afghan president’s comments on Pashteen’s arrest 'unwarranted'

  • Ghani said he was ‘troubled’ by the arrest
  • Ghani’s tweets ‘are a clear interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs’ – FO

PESHAWAR: Pakistan has condemned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s statement on the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), on Monday.
“We have noted with serious concern the recent tweets by President Ashraf Ghani, which are a clear interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and hence, unwarranted,” the Foreign Office said in a statement, adding that Pakistan wishes to maintain close relations with Afghanistan “based on the principles of non-intervention and non-interference.”
The words came after Ghani’s Twitter post, in which he expressed his worry over the PTM leader’s detention. 
“I am troubled by the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen and his colleagues. I fully echo the concerns raised by Amnesty International in this regard and hope for their immediate release,” Ghani said in a Twitter post, adding that while the region is suffering due to violent extremism, “must support and encourage peaceful civilian movements for justice and must avoid any means of force and violence against these movements.”

PTM is a movement says it advocates for Pashtun rights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, which have significant Pashtun populations. The Pashtuns are also the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.
Following Pashteen’s arrest in Peshawar by police on Monday, lawmakers from tribal districts called for a countrywide protest.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Mohsin Dawar, a National Assembly (MNA) member from North Waziristan tribal district, said that Pashteen had been “abducted by police.”

In this undated file photo, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) central leader Manzoor Pashteen addresses a crowd in Peshawar. (Photo courtesy: PTM)

Another lawmaker, said Ali Wazir, from South Waziristan tribal district said that police did not provide information why Pashteen was detained. 
“A day earlier, Defense Minister Pervez Khattak has approached us for negotiations to resolve our problems, but the arrest of our central leader soon after Khattak’s talks offer is a big question mark. We will offer stout resistance if Pashteen is not released soon,” said Ali Wazir.
KP Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai did not return phone calls despite repeated attempts to obtain his comment.