RAHIM YAR KHAN: Muhammad Ashraf, a resident of Basti Makkal of district Bhakkar, with his nephew Hameedullah made a plan to buy a Belarus tractor at the price of Rs3.3m from Kashmore, Sindh.

They were lured by a cheap tractor advertisement on Facebook though both of them were not much aware of social media. A Belarus tractor costs about Rs5.5m while it was being sold on Facebook at a price far less than the actual price.

Talking to Dawn, Ashraf says that he had got the number of the broker from the Facebook post, contacted him and he with his nephew embarked on the journey towards Kashmore. They went to Dera Ismail Khan from Bhakkar and boarded a bus for Dera Mor in Kashmore. The bus dropped them at Sadiqabad as its staff had tricked them that it was going to Sindh. This proved a blessing in disguise for the duo.

Ashraf said that on Wednesday when they boarded a van from Sadiqabad to go to Dera Mor, the van driver had a casual chit-chat with them during the travel and inquired where they were headed to. They told him that they were going to Dera Mor in Kashmore to meet a tractor broker who will help them buy a tractor.

The driver forbade them from going further, warning them that they would be trapped by the kidnappers’ gangs of the Katcha area. Their fear was further solidified when the Police Anti-Honey Trap Cell staff at Daowala check post on the Punjab-Sindh border inquired from them about the purpose of their travel.

Police anti-honey trap cells on Sindh-Punjab border saving people from falling for traps; 214 people from across country saved so far

Ashraf and Hameedullah were lucky that they were saved by police as well as the sincere advice from the van driver. Police stopped them from further travel and took them to Kot Sabzal Police Station where they kept them as guests and informed their families back in Bhakkar.

Though the Anti-Honey Trap Cells of police are running various campaigns to raise awareness about the honey-trap tactics being used by Katcha gangs, many innocent people are still falling for their traps, including offer of marriage to young girls and sale of cheap cars, vehicles and tractors. Once the naïve people reach the gang area, they are kidnapped for ransom and are not released until their families pay the gangs a heavy ransom. The gangs kill their victims if their families don’t pay them the ransom.

According to police sources, when the Punjab Police started the grand Katcha operation about eight months back, they launched the initiative for anti-honey trap cells for public awareness on the tactics used by the gangs to lure people. As a part of the campaign, two anti-honey trap cells were launched at Daowala check post on the border of Sindh and Punjab and Kot Sabzal Police Station. Separate staff consisting of police officials has been appointed at both the cells.

Right now eight police officials are working at the cell at the Kot Sabzal Police Station while about four to six officials have been posted at the cell at the Daowala check post to monitor the passengers in public vehicles, like buses and vans, as well as private cars and motorcycles and ask them about the purpose of their travel.

They make announcements on speakers too for bus passengers, warning the people of the honey traps that might have been laid for them in the Katcha area Rahim Yar Khan police spokesperson Saif Ali Wains says police have so far saved more than 214 people coming from different areas of the country from falling victims to honey traps of the Katcha gangs.

He told Dawn that during last eight months, RYK police saved 26 people from Rawalpindi, 13 from Attock, seven each from Chakwal, Muzaffargarh, Peshawar and Lodhran, five persons each from Azad Kashmir, South Waziristan, Nowshera, Mansehra, three persons each from Layyah, Swat, Haripur, Murree, Islamabad, Sheikhupura and Mandi Bahauddin and two persons each from Pattoki, Abbottabad, Bahawalnagar, Pakpattan, Mardan and Sanghar and some others from Upper Dir, Bannu, Bajaur Agency from the trap of gangs.

Wains says both the anti-honey trap cells on the Punjab-Sindh border check each and every vehicle.

According to him, there are no more hideouts of gangs in the Katcha area of Punjab but the gangs of Sindh are using social media for trapping the people from Punjab as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They display their attractive social media posts, offering marriages with young girls, jobs and cheap vehicles. They make fake accounts on social media to post ads on a daily basis to avoid law enforcement agencies.

Wains says police are constantly monitoring the cellular companies towers to trace the calls being made to people in different cities regularly but that’s not enough to save the people from gangs’ traps until people themselves remain cautious and don’t fall for honey traps.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2023

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