As part of precautionary measures against Covid-19, the Sindh government on Thursday imposed a ban on swimming and bathing in sea and canals on the eve of Eidul-Fitr. However, analysts believe that the Sindh police are using technology to control people which is likely to erode democracy in the country.
The government of Sindh imposed a ban on swimming and bathing in sea and canals on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, as a part of precautionary measure against coronavirus.https://t.co/sucAMcTZ7H
— Daily Times (@dailytimespak) May 22, 2020
According to a notification issued by the Sindh Home Department, the ban has been imposed under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to contain the spread of the virus.
Considering the request of commissioners Karachi and Hyderabad, the home department has decided to impose a ban on bathing and swimming on the eve of the upcoming Eid.
Notably, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday turned down a plea for permission to open parks and other recreational spots across the province on the occasion of Eidul Fitr. An LHC bench headed by Chief Justice Qasim Khan was hearing the constitutional petition seeking directives for the provincial authorities to allow parks and recreational spots to open during the Eid holidays.
The judge also asked if the petitioner wanted the court to issue a license to kill children across the province. “Do you ask me for a license to kill children,” the top high court judge asked the litigant.
— ARY NEWS (@ARYNEWSOFFICIAL) May 21, 2020
Earlier on May 20, the district administration had announced that all the tourist spots and hotels in Murree will remain closed, as Sindh placed a ban on swimming, during the Eidul-Fitr holidays.
Talking to journalists, Rawalpindi’s deputy Commissioner Anwarul Haq had said that the decision had been taken in the best interest of people so they could be saved from the virus. He had urged the people to avoid visiting Murree during the Eid holidays.
Authoritarian tech across the world
Recently, the Sindh Police Department’s Security and Emergency Service Division launched an application dubbed “Citizen Monitoring App.” The application was announced by Maqsood Ahmed Memon, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), in a statement. According to him, the application has been designed based on directives issued by Sindh IGP Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar and IGP Karachi Ghulam Nabi Memon. It means the government is doing much more than putting a ban on swimming.
The Citizen Monitoring App is designed to keep tabs on citizens roaming around the city. It will be available only to the officials and will be installed on Mobile Phones used by officers deputed at police checkpoints.
It is worth noting that recently Moscow police claimed to have caught and fined 200 people who violated quarantine and self-isolation using facial recognition and a 170,000-camera system. According to a Russian media report some of the alleged violators who were fined had been outside for less than half a minute before they were picked up by a camera.
“We want there to be even more cameras so that that there is no dark corner or side street left,” Oleg Baranov, Moscow’s police chief, said in a recent briefing, adding that the service is currently working to install an additional 9,000 cameras.
In Israel, the Shin Bet security service has shifted its powerful surveillance program to retrace the movements of coronavirus patients or suspected carriers. The mechanism is similar to that used in Russia — phone and credit card data are used for mapping, and health officials must then alert and quarantine people who were within 2 meters, for 10 minutes or more, of someone infected with the virus, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
The ministry said in a statement the information will only be used by its specialists and deleted after 60 days. But rights groups have filed a petition against it to the High Court of Justice, which warned it will shut the program down unless more oversight is in place. On Thursday, Shin Bet said in a statement that it helped the health authorities to identify and isolate more than 500 residents who were found to be sick with the coronavirus.
In South Korea, the government used data from credit card transactions, phone geolocation and surveillance footage to give detailed information on coronavirus patients, without identifying them by name, according to a government website. The result was a map where people can see if they were in close proximity to a coronavirus carrier. Detailed histories led to some patients being doxxed — having their personal information outed without consent — and authorities decided to scale down the data-sharing policies.
Experts believe that these tools will become a permanent part of our lives, and the governments will use them to control citizens. Yuval Noah Harari, author of ‘Sapiens’, ‘Homo Deus’ and ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’, believes that “many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.”
Moreover, Harari notes that “immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger. Entire countries serve as guinea-pigs in large-scale social experiments. What happens when everybody works from home and communicates only at a distance? What happens when entire schools and universities go online? In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times.”