Extortion in twin cities

Published May 7, 2014

UNTIL now, the menace of extortion had been a problem faced largely by Karachi, the nation’s business hub. But, as a growing number of reports indicate, the crime is becoming a major issue in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad as well, where militants belonging to the banned TTP in the tribal belt are using the twin cities as a base to extort millions of rupees from businessmen and traders, with criminal gangs having a much smaller slice of the pie. That militants have people on the ground in Rawalpindi was proved by the recent arrest of a businessman who confessed to passing on information to the TTP about potential targets. A report in this paper last week also stated that certain seminaries in Islamabad were suspected of helping local Taliban elements with the collection of extortion and ransom money. Moreover, a police report has identified 20 madressahs in Rawalpindi as being used by the TTP. To make matters worse, splits within the TTP mean that numerous groups are harassing traders with extortion demands. Traders who have relocated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are being particularly harassed.

It is appalling that criminal and militant groups should be operating with such apparent ease in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. We would have thought that the considerable security presence in the twin cities would have deterred such criminality. After all, ’Pindi hosts the general headquarters of the Pakistan Army, and soldiers patrol many key areas in the city, while, as the federal capital, Islamabad is also under the vigilance of the security establishment. The main problem seems to be that victims — due to a trust deficit — are hesitant to go to the police. The Rawalpindi police have made efforts to reach out to the business community, but quite obviously police in both cities must do more to assure traders they are serious about cracking down on extortionists. And while the militants may be hard to reach in Fata, their local informers can be apprehended to clamp down on the extortion racket.



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