RAWALPINDI, Oct 3: Terror has followed some families who left the militancy-hit Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and took up residence in Rawalpindi.
Dawn has learnt that the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) has informed the Punjab government that several such families from Fata, including Bajaur, have received extortion threats, allegedly from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group.
Officials in the know of the communication say the threats are delivered to better off over telephone or through ‘chits’, demanding large sums of money, or ‘valuable articles’ meaning jewellery, or ‘assistance’ to their operatives — at the pain of kidnapping or other harm.
According to the officials, the money raised by the militants through criminality goes to finance their terror apparatus as governments at home and abroad have put strict checks on the flow of funds to banned outfits through charity and other sources.
In its communication to the Punjab government, the CTD identified at least eight such wealthy families residing in Naseerabad, Chah Sultan and Chowki Hameeda localities of the garrison city who had paid extortion money.
Usually the victims avoid seeking police help for fear of becoming a target of the extortionists. Even those who pick up the courage to go to the police to register a case minimise the offence.
Last April, an immigrant from Mohmand Agency, doing auto parts business in Glass Factory area, in the limit of Waris Khan police station, got an extortion note signed by “TTP killer group” and paid up quietly.
Neither he went to police nor would disclose the amount he paid to the police investigators who came inquiring. The note had threatened him with death if the demand was not met within a specified time.
More recently, a watchman noticed a suspicious object tagged to the gate of the dera (large compound) of Haji Sahib Khan, another rich businessman from Mohmand Agency, in Westridge area. Police and civil defence experts called to the spot found it to be an explosive device and diffused it.
But what sent a bigger scare in the community was the scribbled note attached to the device, declaring it was “the first gift to Haji sahib from TTP”.
It so happened that Haji Sahib had switched off his mobile after receiving three threats. When he switched on after a few days a caller delivered him the TTP message: “You are under watch and on our hit list”.
A senior police officer revealed that the call had been traced to a tribal area.
A less damaging but no less scary incident had happened earlier when a device was thrown at the clinic of a doctor near Race Course on the Peshawar Road. It caused some damage but no casualties.
A note found at the site claimed the blast was the work of TTP and a call came to the doctor demanding a huge sum.
Counter-terrorism agencies feel a strategy is needed to prevent a situation arising in Rawalpindi like Karachi where ‘bhatta’ (extortion) is a painful, living reality.