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Kidnapping — the business booms


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Graph courtesy CPLC.

It was in May, 2012, that Muhammad Nadim* experienced his worst nightmare — being kidnapped.  “I was driving home from work when I was intercepted near the Northern Bypass by armed men in a car,” he recalls. “Within seconds, they whisked me into their vehicle, leaving my car abandoned. Before I could react I was blindfolded and being driven away. I was terrified”.

The next morning Nadim came to know that he was ‘somewhere’ in Karachi and his family has been asked to pay Rs10 million for his safe return. An engineer by profession and coming from a humble background, Nadim was home a couple of days later but only after paying Rs1.6 million following a series of phone calls between the kidnappers and his family negotiating the ransom amount; his family never reported the incident to the police.

“After that incident I even changed my job but I am still reeling from the horrific experience. It’s difficult to imagine how we arranged the ransom. I don’t know why middle class people like me, who are not rich, are targeted,” he says.

He is still unaware of the reasons behind his kidnapping, but investigators are not as they see a shift in the target of kidnappers with more than 100 cases already registered over the past 10 months. Kidnappers no longer restrict themselves to rich families; rather they are kidnapping people from the upper to the middle classes and industrialists to salaried employees as well.

“We need to dispel the impression that kidnappers are specifically targeting people from a particular class or profession,” says Ahmed Chinoy, chief of Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) — a key body that is recognised and relied upon for handling kidnapping for ransom complaints in coordination with the police and intelligence organisations.

He believes that even people belonging to the middle and lower middle classes are not safe. He does not see any major difference in terms of the number of registered kidnapping incidents between 2011 and 2012 so far. “But considering the crime trend and increasing criminal activities in 2012, we have managed to keep it on the lower side,” adds Chinoy.

His assessment is borne out by the number of reported kidnapping for ransom cases maintained by the police authorities. By the end of September 2012 more than 100 cases had been reported, averaging over 10 a month. It was in October 2012 that the numbers started declining following proactive policing and a number of deadly encounters that killed some suspected kidnappers, leading to safe recovery of the victims.

“By September 2012 the number of reported cases stood at 103,” says SP Niaz Khoso of the Karachi police’s anti-violent crime cell (AVCC) — mandated to probe into heinous crimes from kidnapping for ransom to terrorism. “In October we moved with proactive strategy, enhanced our intelligence coordination and deputed more force towards operation. The month ended with only two reported cases and we recovered half a dozen victims after exchange of gunfire that killed five kidnappers”.

Investigations so far establish that there is no single specific group operating in Karachi as the ‘lucrative business’ has attracted bandits from rural Sindh, banned militant outfits and organised criminal gangs of Karachi to taste the windfall, he says.

“But all operators are local and no foreign individual or group has so far been found to be involved. We have spotted Shikarpur groups that made several attempts and succeeded in a few. In a few cases, the kidnapees were driven to Ranipur in Khairpur district from where they were released after payment of ransom in Karachi,” he says.

He says that no area can be defined as ‘vulnerable or hotspot’ as kidnappers always maintain a level of surprise for their targets and can strike anywhere but definitely keep the victim mainly in the city outskirts.

This year, the AVCC data shows, 54 people got released without paying ransom through police efforts but in 46 other cases the victims’ families paid ransom ranging from a few hundred thousand to a million rupees for the safe return of their loved ones. Despite payment of ransom, the police claim to have pursued those cases and arrested a number of suspects.

Though the recent police efforts in coordination with CPLC are seen as instrumental in capping the number of kidnapping for ransom incidents, experts with experience in dealing with this particular crime believe that there are still many initiatives that need to be implemented to attain the desired results.

“After 9/11 there has been an unprecedented surge in kidnapping for ransom cases and it may continue,” says former CPLC chief Jameel Yusuf, who personally handled dozens of such cases between 1996 and 2003. “I remember when I was at the helm of affairs an efficient response team was in place for that technical job. But that’s not the case now. An important step is to streamline the sale of cell phone connections and equip investigators with modern gadgets to help them trace kidnappers on a fast track basis.”

Unfortunately, the tracking system facility, an effective tool for tracing missing persons, is not available in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) which makes it even more difficult for the police to track kidnapping cases. In KP, where kidnapping for ransom is also a lucrative business wherein several gangs in both settled and tribal areas are involved, women play a significant role as they can extract and disseminate information more easily and the police cannot arrest them without solid proof.

*Name changed for security reasons

Additional KP information provided by Ali Hazrat Bacha

Comments (12) Closed

Ashfaq Nov 18, 2012 06:48am
Law and order is at worst in the country now a days. It seems like the criminals have support from almost all institutions provided their part is paid. I would say the situation is worst and extremely dangerous for common citizens. As the govt is doing nothing for this, it's almost sure that govt is involved and commited to spoiling citizen's life. A common Pakistani citizen does not know what to do. It seems he/she has only two choices: 1. Earn and give it away to criminals and institutions 2. Become a criminal to protect himself
ovais Nov 18, 2012 01:43pm
so for i never commented on any article but after reading this article i would like to say government of the day has no concern with the problem of the populace.....we are living our lives ourselves .....there is a great lack of trust between government institutions and general public.....and i believe that all crimes have been committed under the umbrella of government institutions.......there is a great violation of human rights and no one here to protect general public..........its an alarming situation and m still thinking where can we get a bite of justice ........under all these conditions m salute those people who r still investing in Pakistan although our politicians have there bucks out of the country.
Humayun Nov 18, 2012 10:18am
Article is good but Karachi specific. Kidnappings for ransom have become pretty common in Quetta. Should cover that story too.
MBA Nov 18, 2012 10:34am
KIdnapping as a source of easy-money is probably one of the most horrible diseases in a society. It has a direct implication on the motivation of common people. What happens, if you fear that someone would kidnape you or your family members because "they" think you have money, the possible reactions are: 1) You are not motivated to achieve (economical) success OR 2) You hide your fortune. In both cases the result is same: the impoverishment of the society. You avoide buying costly objects, you do not maintain your house, etc. etc. All these omitted activities reduce jobs and oppotunities for others persons. The problem is aggrivated in countries like Pakistan, where common people do not trust police forces. So the crime statistics does not show us the real picture.
Shaikh Mohommad Nov 18, 2012 04:35pm
There is a third and only option. Come on the streets and demonstrate. Sitting quiet is criminal. Raise your voice against the Government and the Army.
MBA Nov 18, 2012 10:42am
Very brutal but exact analysis of the situation.
Javed Nov 18, 2012 04:32pm
Leave a few guilty kidnappers, that are caught, hanging in the public square for afew days in each major city and the problem will go away. While at the same time the govt in partnership with the business community etc should focus on creating jobs for the millions of unemployed youth.
MBA Nov 18, 2012 10:38am
I presume, Mr. Ayub has taken Karachi as an example only. Unfortunately the problem is a becoming a Typical Pakistan Problem, as the institutes for implementing law & order does not function well and there are too many wepons available to criminals.
Hassan Nov 18, 2012 01:44pm
If there was a death penalty for child/adult abduction the crime rate could come down faster than expected...
Sam Nov 18, 2012 12:40pm
This is the time for people to come on street, because if we have lost trust in police and people are getting kidnapped then only two things can happen either everyone will leave or some good people will also take the weapon and fight for justince. I would say that people should come on street and do what people did against the leaders in Egypt, and Libya. The difference is that in Pakistan it has to be against all politicians. We have to do somethign before we will be the victime and then you will realise.
Khan Afzal Nov 18, 2012 12:58pm
The police, public and intelligence agencies should work togather to counter this inhumane and barbaric crimes against the civilians. Unfortunately our security forces are not trustworthy and in most cases they are partners in these type of crimes. Also there should be death penalty through a very quick justice system so that those who commit such acts first think thrice and second they are absolutely sure of the consequences. Unfortunately again the justice system is not working for general public and their cases are dumped giving more time and value to politically motivated cases. The only possibility left with the public is either to pay and help in booming this crime or just refuse to pay leave the situation at the mercy of the criminals and gangs commiting the crimes. If the government can not provide safety and security to the public then have no right to rule at all.
Md Imran Nov 18, 2012 03:48pm
We need to implement shariya..that is the only solution