Children are often kidnapped by members of their own family, Muhammad Faisal Ali reports from Lahore

Three days without their four-year-old Jannat, who was kidnapped for ransom, turned into hell for Muzaffar Hussain and his wife who spent days and nights without proper food and sleep in profound grief for their lost child.

“We searched every nook and corner of the locality to find our daughter, but to no avail. Jannat was released by the kidnapper three days after paying the negotiated ransom amount of Rs100,000. The Factory Area police, already alerted about the kidnapping, traced the suspect, arrested him and recovered the cash.

“The incident terrorised us and eventually forced my husband to shift from Lahore to Faisalabad”, said the mother.

While kidnapping for ransom has increased tremendously across all segments of society, the police believe that child kidnappings are the work of amateurs rather than professional criminals. In fact many senior police officers believe that such cases are often carried out by members of the family or neighbours.

They claim that not a single child aged up to 15 has ever been picked up by organised criminal gangs, Taliban or banned outfits as all of those always target high-profile adults.

Lahore police statistics show that out of 41 child-kidnapping cases reported from Jan 1 to Nov 5, 2012, 20 children up to the age of 14 have been kidnapped for ransom out of which two children were killed. As many as 15 victims were recovered safely, two returned home on their own and one has not been retrieved so far. The victims’ families paid a total of Rs2.95million ransom while the police recovered Rs955,000 ransom amount after arresting 29 suspects.

However, three cases of child-kidnapping were registered with the Gujranwala police in the ongoing year. In two cases the victims were murdered while the police retrieved the third child. All accused were apprehended and challaned.

Gujranwala City Police Officer Abdur Razzaque Cheema, who earlier served as the Lahore SSP (Investigation), says easy money is the prime cause behind kidnapping of children in both districts. He says in some cases a family member and in others people from the same locality are involved in kidnappings.

He said that in some cases, the kidnappers killed the children for fear of being identified by the victims after being released.

Lahore DIG (Operations) Muhammad Tahir Rai believes that kidnapping of children is often linked to family or business rivalries, people associated with the business of the victims’ families or even someone who gets tempted by the financial status of the victims in the neighbourhood. He said this fact was established when, after arrest, several kidnappers said that they had no prior experience of kidnapping. He didn’t rule out the possibility of some immature gangs involved in such incidents.

The DIG said the rich class was usually the target of professional kidnappers who demanded ransom depending upon the financial position of the victims.

Lahore DIG (Investigation) Chaudhary Shafique Ahmad claims that the ransom amount usually varies from Rs100,000 to Rs1million. He also confirms that family members, relatives and neighbours are involved in the majority of cases.

According to the DIG, now lower-middle class and even poor families were being targeted by kidnappers, adding that deprivation in low strata of society and poverty were the main reasons for children’s abductions.

The DIG said that in a latest case, a constable of Lahore police abducted his two-and-a-half-year-old nephew for Rs1m ransom.

He said in most cases investigation showed that a relative had hidden the child and demanded ransom.

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