LAHORE: The National Highways and Motorways Police (NH&MP) seem least bothered about automobile theft crime as inter-provincial gangs are using motorways as “safe haven” to transport stolen vehicles from Punjab to other provinces.

It is evident from recently smashed five gangs of criminals who lifted cars from various parts of the province and sold them at throwaway prices ranging between Rs80,000 and Rs500,000 in the black market of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and south Punjab.

The gangs were busted by the Faisalabad police which recovered 33 stolen cars and 90 motorbikes.

These vehicles were largely stolen from the Faisalabad and other nearby districts and most of them were driven to Landi Kotal, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Qilla Saifullah, Shikarpur, Sukkur, Karachi and Multan.

Car lifters use motorways to transport vehicles to other provinces.

A police official said some districts of KP had become the hub of stolen vehicles and most of them were used to be lifted from various parts of Punjab.

For the criminals, the motorway has been a ‘favourite’ route to transport vehicles to KP where the cars are sold at cheaper rate.

Interestingly, he said, 10 per cent of the stolen cars, recovered by Faisalabad police, were using M-Tag and they crossed all the interchanges on the motorways falling within the geographical limits of both provinces.

Under the prevailing system on the motorways, the alert messages were generated on the mobile phones of owners on crossing the toll plazas.

The official declared it a lack of coordination between the NH&MP and the Punjab police which led to the situation.

Similarly, nine stolen cars were also recovered from Karachi and others from Multan where the gangs of robbers had sold them to the mafias.

Faisalabad Investigation SSP retired Capt Muhammad Ajmal said some of the suspects were ‘habitual’ offenders and they used to lift unattended cars parked alongside roads.

He declared it a challenging task to recover cars from a province (KP) where Jirga system largely dominated.

He said a team of Anti-Vehicle Lifting Squad (AVLS) went to KP when Faisalabad City Police Officer Omer Saeed promised his full support.

“For the first time the AVLS managed to arrest three notorious criminals from KP who had purchased cars stolen from Punjab,” the SSP said adding that they were known as underworld don in the automobile theft markets.

Of them, Hayat Khan was operating in Landi Kotal and Salim Khan and Waheed Khan in Malakand, Mr Ajmal said.

He said it was [rather] a risky job to arrest and bring them from KP to Punjab. Similarly, the team went to Karachi and arrested another criminal who was known there as Baba Shahid.

He was also shifted to Faisalabad, Ajmal said adding that the police smashed the local network and arrested ring leaders of the five gangs including Abdul Shakoor alias Shakoori, Shakil, Tahir Abbas, Asad and Kashif.

He said the criminals were technically expert to the extent that they used to lift cars using jammers to deactivate/disconnect the computerised systems including the locators installed in the vehicles.

Within moments, they managed to connect wires from dashboards and then ignitions, he said.

The SSP said the Cellular Detection Unit (CDU) of the Faisalabad police played a key role to trace the locations of most of the suspects.

About motorbikes, he said, most of them were recovered from the local black markets of Faisalabad and other parts of the province where the thieves had sold them at throwaway prices ranging between Rs20,000 and Rs30,000.

“We have also recovered 90 motorbikes worth over Rs44 million,” he said adding that the AVLS teams arrested criminal Tahir Abbas from Vehari and Javed Khan from Dera Ismail Khan who used to purchase three-wheelers from thieves.The official said the Faisalabad police have so far recovered 102 stolen cars during first seven months of this year.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2022

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