LAHORE: The Punjab Education Foundation’s (PEF) Gulberg office in Lahore has introduced a new policy requiring the submission of cell phones upon entry to the office, causing confusion for visitors and guests alike.
Security personnel explain that compliance with upper management directives is necessary.
Hundreds of school owners/representatives (PEF Partners) visit the office daily for official meetings, including on invitation.
The visitors bemoaned the practice and argue the precautions suit a law enforcement agency’s office, not PEF. Failing to attend important calls for hours can be costly, they say.
“We are facing severe problems due to this bizarre policy as we have to come from other cities, and sometimes it takes hours to get free from work within the PEF office. During these hours, we are not even able to call or make any contact with anyone outside. Perhaps they don’t want us to get in touch with anyone,” a visitor told Pakistan Today.
Most visitors are educated school-owners so “preposterous to suggest anyone would use cell phones to commit illegal activity within the office premises,” he added.
Some visitors opine that this policy has been adopted to prevent visitors from taking photographs/videos as most phones are capable of doing so. Sources told Pakistan Today that they concur with that line of reasoning, explaining that upholding the office’s privacy seems to be the overriding concern. School partners often try to record conversations, and the management wishes to avoid leakage of sensitive information to the media or higher authorities, they explained.
“It is nothing more or nothing less than a security issue and that is why cellular phones are not allowed within the building,” PEF Managing Director Tariq Mehmood told Pakistan Today. Anyone can leave the office to use their phones outside, he explained.
“We are not ‘abducting’ their phones; we always try to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the institution,” he added.
More than 10,000 schools are registered with the PEF as school partners.