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Traders scared of extortionists

November 16, 2012

RAWALPINDI, Nov 16: Traders, industrialists, businessmen and other wealthy people in major cities of Punjab are worried about the alarming increase in activities of terror groups, it has been learnt.

Some of the groups operating from Waziristan and Afghanistan are reported to have extracted money from these people.

Sources said the home department has directed the divisional police chiefs to launch a crackdown on the extortionists.

The sources said police field staff deputed to assess the situation and public concerns over the rising cases of extortion by the terror groups in Rawalpindi and Lahore reported that the business community was deeply concerned over the activities of the mafia.

A home department report sent to all the divisional and city police chiefs in the province also identified the terror groups and their modus operandi to extort money from wealthy people, especially those who had migrated to the urban centres of the Punjab from the tribal areas.

The report painted the situation in Rawalpindi grimmer, as about 100 people in the garrison city were forced to pay extortion varying from Rs2 million to Rs7 million to the terror groups in the recent past. The victims mostly included wealthy Pashtoons who either dealt in auto/spare parts or owned factories. Attempts on their lives had also been reported to the police.

Besides these incidents, more worrying for the government agencies was a noticeable increase in the number of Taliban supporters. The report said some of the extortionists were also operating from Murree.

Supporters of Taliban or the extortion mafia groups lived in Sadiqabad and Pirwadhai areas of Rawalpindi. Another group identified in the report as “Tiger” was also reported to have been involved in extorting money. The tiger group consisted of 50 to 60 gangsters with criminal history, said the report.

A senior police official in Rawalpindi confirmed that two people identified as Matloob Hussain and Tahir Mehmood were murdered on the outskirts of Gujar Khan on March 9, 2012, after they failed to pay extortion to the terror group. Though three of the members of the terror group were arrested after the double murder, their two accomplices escaped to interior of Sindh.

The report also said extorting money from businessmen, especially those dealing in furniture, garments and steel, had affected the people in Lahore as well. Four Pashtoon businessmen have so far been murdered after they failed to pay extortion to the criminals in Lahore.

One of the businessmen was killed at Ravi Road and the other at Samanabad after they failed to pay Rs50 million to the terror groups. Many people reportedly settled the payments of ransom with the mafia without involving the police due to fear of retaliation from the criminals. The report added: “The gangs operating in Lahore seem to have close ties with Jihadi groups in Afghanistan and Waziristan.”

The most worrying factor is that the names of nearly 100 wealthy Pashtoons, who had migrated to Lahore from Afghanistan and the tribal areas, had been sent to the terror groups operating from there by their accomplices, said the report. The groups involved in extortion usually contact their target on telephone to convey their demands.

The report said at least 20 individuals had received threatening calls in Lahore. An individual identified in the report as B.K., who lived in Sabzi Mandi, has been suspected of facilitating the extortion mafia.

It further said another man presently languishing in jail was still actively operating from the prison in kidnapping and extortion related activities. And his brother has been running an extortion gang in Karachi.

The home department directed the regional police officers and the city police officers to launch crackdowns against the extortionists.

“Ministry of interior may be appraised of the gravity of the situation and a joint strategy along with intelligence agencies and provincial government be chalked out to cope with the situation.”