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‘Criminals active in guise of Taliban’

June 18, 2013

PESHAWAR, June 17: A retired government official has alleged that criminals are extorting money from people in the name of collecting funds for Taliban.

“The criminals including women send threatening SMS to people and make telephone calls for receiving extortion in name of funding for Taliban,” Tajawal Khan told a press conference here on Monday.

He expressed grave concern over life threats to him and his family from the gangsters and demanded of the government to take appropriate measures to protect his family.

Mr Khan, a resident of Shabqadar and an engineer by profession, said that he received a telephone call on Jan 30 from an unidentified person, who demanded Rs6 million from him. He said that the caller threatened to eliminate his entire family if he didn’t pay the amount.

He said that he continued to receive the threatening telephone calls for over a month, forcing him to inform police.

“Following the threats, I informed local police and a case was registered against unidentified persons. An accused identified as Afzal Sher, a resident of Koi Barmol Mardan, his wife Jahanzeba, son Sohail Afzal and another woman Rubeena Afzal were arrested by police. But after the arrests unidentified persons targeted my house with a bomb that badly damaged the building and blown up a motorbike,” Mr Khan said.

The accused, he said, were released by an anti-terrorism court in Peshawar just after one day of their arrest. He said that he was still receiving life threats.

Mr Khan said that he was a retired government official and had nothing to do with anyone but unidentified caller was forcing him to pay such a huge amount for no fault of him.

He said that the accused were members of an organised gang of criminals, who used to send threatening SMS and make telephone calls from border areas of different tribal regions posing themselves as Taliban. He said that the caller introduced himself as a member of Taliban and said that he was demanding the money for funding.

“I have confirmed the caller’s telephone numbers and nominated the gang members in the FIR but they are roaming freely. I feel insecure and demand legal action against them,” Mr Khan said.

The gang, he said, had specialists for sending SMS, making telephone calls and carrying out bomb attacks on the houses of those, who refused to pay money. Police knew about all those things but no action had been taken in that regard, he added.

“I have doubt that some influential people are behind the gangsters and only the provincial government can save innocent people from these criminals,” Mr Khan said.