It would happen only in Bond movies where the heroes had a spy watch or any other gadgets to communicate information about the enemy’s place to his office far away. Today, it has become possible for the Lahoris to have spy cameras installed in their watches, USBs, pens and other household items.
TNS learns that there are a number of ‘spy’ items available in different markets such as Hall Road, Hafeez Centre and Siddique Trade Centre, their minimum price being as low as Rs3,000 only.
The interesting part is that the GSM facility is also available on some devices. Sellers have created attractive slogans like “Now you can know what is happening at your home while sitting in office”.
The shopkeepers are reluctant to admit that they sell spy devices but when you strike a deal with them they say they can arrange one for you. Amir is one such shopkeeper at the ground floor of Hafeez Centre who has set up NGS.
Apparently, the shopkeepers deal in security cameras but they are also found selling spy devices. Amir says that he can arrange a device for us but when he finds out that it is only some information which is required of him, he changes his tune, feigning ignorance on the matter.
“Selling such spy devices is banned in Pakistan so nobody put those on shelves,” says Azmat Zahoor, a veteran trader of security and other camera devices, who has been in the business for the past 19 years.
Contradictory to Azmat’s claim, Ghulam Rasool, a 30 years old trader with a setup in the same market, has a huge stock displayed on shelves that include spy pens, spy key chains, spy USBs, spy tie pins, spy watches and many other things. “We can provide you anything with spy camera installed,” he says.
It is also learnt that spy cameras are easily installed in different instruments of daily use such as buttons, watches, pens, power outlets, shaving razors, glasses, digital table clocks, wall clocks, cigarette lighters, USBs, torches, key chains, ash trays and even wire extension boards.
Sadiq, a wholesale dealer of such gizmos, says that the import of these ‘undercover’ items is done at a large scale and there are more than 50 wholesale dealers of the items in Lahore alone.
He further says that thousands of items are sold monthly to “customers that come from different walks of life, especially media, armed forces, property dealing and education.
“People come to us for their personal reasons as well,” he adds. “Once a middle-aged man came up to me and said that he was getting life threats from his in-laws and needed to produce evidence in the court. Hence, he asked for a spy device.”
Interestingly, all these items fall under the category of ‘Camera’. To quote Sadiq, “This makes for an easy import [of the abovementioned items]; you only need to have a license.”
The price ranges between Rs2,500 and Rs5,500, depending on the quality.
Abdul Waheed, Sales Manager at ICOM, a company which deals in security and spy cameras, says that only those who provide sufficient documentation about their identity are entertained, as this is directly related to an individual’s private liberties. “We have mentioned it clearly on the banner placed in front of the customers’ area.”
Imran 35, a shopkeeper on Hall Road, is fine with displaying his available stuff before this scribe, also for a photograph or two. He says that moral fabric of the society has collapsed and people need to use such things to blackmail.
“Not that we care. It is our business to sell the things available in the market. That’s it.”
Imran says that most of the customers belong to the age group ranging between 25-35.
Muhammad Afzal, a landlord from Sahiwal and a customer in Hafeez Centre, says that the spy items have good as well as bad uses. He claims that one of his classmates at the National College of Arts used a spy device to prove her claim of harassment at the hands of a class mate who was later expelled from the college because she was able to produce sufficient evidence.
“The device can be used in baby care also, as mothers can monitor their babies while working in the kitchen.”
Chaudhry Waheed Ahmad, a senior advocate of Lahore High Court, is of the opinion that no one has the right to trespass or intervene into someone’s private life. This is strictly prohibited in the law.”
He says, “Even if you have some strong concerns for your personal security, you cannot intervene in other’s privacy.
“Unless there is some issue of national interest, such devices are not allowed to be used and the national interest in which case should be proved.”
Despite such strict bindings from the law, the sale of spy gadgets at affordable rates continues at a large scale, overlooked by the authorities.
Despite strict bindings from the law, the sale of spy gadgets is overlooked by the authorities. — Photos by the author