Callous and Stupid, Not Funny: 9,580,902 Crank Calls

Posted on January 3, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Humor, Law & Justice, Society
21 Comments
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Adil Najam

According to the 1998 census, the population of Lahore was 6,319,000 (6 million) inhabitants.

According to today’s Daily Times, these inhabitants managed to make 9,580,902 (9.5 million) crank (prank or hoax) calls to the emergency 15 number in 2008 (how many cranck calls were made to other numbers remains unknown, but is likely to also be an obnoxiously large number). No matter what the current population of Lahore might be, if these numbers are true it means that on average each Lahori man, woman and child made more than one crank call of Emergency 15 in 2008.

We are, in fact, an emergency-prone people, as evidenced by the fact that there were an (additional) 52,486 calls that were in fact legitimate calls to Emergency 15. This means that only about one-half a percent (of 1 in every 200) of calls received by Emergency 15 were legitimate.

In case you are wondering, the Mujahid Squad police did register some cases against these stupid pranksters. How many, you ask? As many as 23. That means only 0.0002 of the pranksters were charged (or 2 out of every one million). And how many were actually arrested or prosecuted. Sifra. Zilch. None!

Some of these pranksters are sitting somewhere smirking and patting themselves at how smart and funny they are. Although I hope this is not so, statistically one would assume that some would also be reading this. Unless they are 5-year olds, here I am to let them know that what they have been doing is not funny. Its stupid!

I am a proud Lahori. I believe ‘Lahore, Lahore Aye.’ I love Lahore, Lahoris and fabled Lahori humor. But there is nothing funny about these numbers if they are true. As I tell my 11-year old, if the other person isn’t laughing with you, then its not funny, just mean. I doubt if those at the receiving end of these calls were laughing.

Those making them might think they are free. But they are not free to the citizens who have to pay for the people and time used in answering and responding to these calls. Most importantly, they are not free to the other real emergencies that might be missed becasse either those calls did not go through, or the folks taking the calls got so frustrated that they failed respond to real emergencies.

They are also not free to the people making the calls themselves. Assuming that each call takes only one minute (in thinking about, making, and then idiotically laughing at the call) of the caller’s time, that would mean 9,580,902 minutes or 159,682 hours, or nearly 20,000 work days (at 8 hours per day) of Lahori time. Please tell me what is either so smart or so funny about wasting 20,000 work days of time!

What bugs me most of all is the callousness and hard-heartedness of the callers who, according to the news report, “capitalised on widespread suicide attacks in 2009, and disseminated wrong information about planting of explosive material at various important sites in the city to create panic.” Have people lost all sense of just plain human decency!

The relevant details from the Daily Times story are:

Those playing pranks have kept the police busy by recording 9,580,902 fake emergency calls in the city, sources told Daily Times on Friday. The Mujahid Squad police registered 23 cases with Civil Lines Police Station against these prank callers, however, not a single caller was arrested in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Mujahid Squad has dismissed 71 officers and has punished their juniors 2,176 times for showing negligence in duty in 2008.

Prank callers: Sources said the emergency number 15 received a total of 9,633,388 calls in 2008, adding that only 52,486 of these were true emergencies. They said the Mujahid Squad had identified about 650 prank callers, who kept the system busy and created trouble for the police as well as the people. However, the Investigations Wing failed to arrest any prank caller against the Mujahid Squad registered cases.

Sources said the prank callers capitalised on widespread suicide attacks in 2009, and disseminated wrong information about planting of explosive material at various important sites in the city to create panic.

Mujahid Squad Superintendent of Police Syed Nasir Ali Rizvi said he had taken charge of the Mujahid Squad recently and had thought of several steps to improve the squad’s working. He said they would try their best to trace the prank callers. He said they would find crime pockets in every division, and would set up a response squad for them. He said the response squad would include an upper subordinate and seven constables. He said he would order the patrolling Mujahid Squad vehicles to select a point for checking of all passing vehicles.

He said he had already ordered the Mujahid Squad to keep a vigilant eye on robbers, especially at weddings, which continued until late night.

Although the precision of the number suggests that it is a real one, even if it were off by a full order of magnitude this would be a really disturbing number; and one possibly pointing to a disturbed state of mind amongst too many.

I may be over-reacting here, but my reaction is not just to this artifact, it is to an attitude of wastefulness and callousness that seems to have become acceptable. As if our institutions, our society, and even this country is not our own, but itself a big joke to laugh off in friviluousness. Ultimately, we are the only ones who pay for these things – one way or the other. And the fact that they would make calls that would increase public panic and find that funny, is a harrowing thought. Can one of these people please click on this link, see the picture there (or here, or here, or here) and please tell me what they find funny about that!

The more I think about this the more I think that by putting the headline I have I am not being too harsh, but not harsh enough on those who would do this.

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21 responses to “Callous and Stupid, Not Funny: 9,580,902 Crank Calls”

  1. Yasir says:

    Technically fix this and then start punishing the culprits. Punish a few and the others will learn.

  2. QURESHI says:

    Great post. I think this also shows how we do not ‘own’ the government and its institutions as our own. After all making fun of them is like making fun of ourselves. When we do not respect our own institutions why do we expect any one else in the world to d that.

  3. Ibrahim says:

    Great post.
    The reason we had so many was because we have not punished the wrong doers. Start punishing a few and the other will learn and the number will come down. Make the fine stiff. Technically it is not a difficult problem at all because now most calls can easily be traced back.

  4. Osman says:

    Ek to hum logou kay pass farigh waqt buhat hai.

    And some people have a weird sense of humor and think that poking fun at others is fun. Although as you say that is just mean.

  5. Omar Malik says:

    I fail to see why this problem cannot be resolved. CLI should give you the calling number and if its a hoax call, simply black-list it by:
    – noting the number down and not responding next time
    – forwarding the number to the cellular companies and PTCL to block or take action against
    – installing a simple black-listing application or hardware to ignore such calls

    Hoax Calls are not something new and we need to tackle it effectively. Nearly all mobile phone connections and almost all PTCL numbers have customer information in the form of ID card numbers or addresses. Trace them down and punish them!

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