Can We Trace Taliban Phone Calls?

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On January 17, 2014 at around 9 pm three members of Express News were killed by unknown assailants in front of Matric Board office Karachi while they were doing their job. It is said that the team that was murdered was working with Express News anchor Shahzaib Khanzada.

Two hours later a program was aired that was being hosted by Javed Chaudhary. In that program, he received a phone call from Shahidullah Shahid, Spokesperson of Tehreek e Taliban, saying that they accept the responsibility of the killings and they have warned Express Group many times about it.

In the same program after the phone call of Shahid another call was received from Qaim Ali Shah, Chief Minister Sindh. The host of the program, Javed, asked Shah that they received a phone call from Shahid stating that TTP accepts the responsibility of the attack on Express News team, why don’t you arrest them? Shah said that the technology that TTP uses is much advance than the technology that Pakistan possesses.

A few days back a discussion on topic ‘How Taliban Contact Media Organizations’ was started on Pakistan Defense forum. In that discussion one of the forum members quoted that, TTP uses satellite phones to call media organizations.

Now, as Shah himself has said that TTP uses advance equipment for communication. It must mean that TTP uses Satellite phones to communicate otherwise they would be using cellular phones which can be traced easily.

In the same program, Shah also said that the call originated from Afghanistan. Now, if that call was from Afghanistan, there are two options either that call was made through a telecommunication network sim that operates in Afghanistan or a satellite phone.

Satellite phones are special phoning devices that are used by intelligence agents, military and terrorists. However, only a few companies provide satellite telephones. The thing that distinguishes these phones from normal phone systems is that they can be used anywhere in the world to call anywhere in the world. They are harder to track and they can be used in remote areas. Even the user can use internet to send and receive email messages through a satellite phone system.

As per the Defence forum discussion, it was revealed that Thuraya, a Satellite phone selling company is very much active in Arab region of the world. Moreover, it was also revealed that the phone system that Taliban are using is also from Thuraya. However, there was no proof about it available on internet.

Now the question of tracking Taliban comes. As Shah said in the interview that, ‘they use technology that Pakistan government does not possess’. Well, Shah is right to some extent we do not have the technology to track a satellite phone system. A satellite phone system can be tracked using a Doppler shift. However the results are not accurate, (they can vary in kilometers).

But the issue of Talibanisation is not only a matter of Pakistan’s internal enemy. It is a war of the whole world. So, what Pakistani government can do is to contact different companies which possess the technology to track satellite phones and hire them for the job.

We should not forget that the Pro-Syrian forces also used military technology to trace the satellite phone calls that were made by the deceased journalists in the region to hunt them down.

There is always a chance that we may still not be able to trace Taliban’s hideouts by using this method but it is better than saying that ‘we do not have the necessary equipment’.

If Pakistan Government does not do that or do anything else for protecting the country than there is a fair chance that the Government itself does not want to arrest them.

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