Wednesday October 20, 2021

Extortionists use illegal gateways for calls to people in KP

PESHAWAR: Illegal gateways and the cellular networks working across the Pak-Afghan border were some of the reasons that businessmen and well-off people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa received calls for extortion, a source told The News.

The source added that calls being made from Afghan phone numbers was a constant issue faced by the police and other law-enforcement agencies in working out cases of extortion across KP.

“As many as 17 illegal gateways have been blocked by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in the last two months. These gateways were being used for making calls for extortion to the local people,” a source told The News.

The source added that through the gateways the foreign phone numbers would appear to be from a local cellular network. A total of 86 illegal gateways have been blocked with the help of other agencies in the last few months.

As per the record of the CTD, 23 extortion cases have been registered during the current year and nine have been traced out and 11 accused arrested.

The number of total calls made for extortion during the current year, however, were 148. Many cases are either not reported or lodged only in roznamcha. In five cases, the terrorists used explosives to hit the target or convey a stark message.

An entire family suffers after receiving a call for extortion. Not only money is spent on security of the house and individuals, their movement is restricted and the family members cannot go out for work, studies or social gatherings freely.

Many families stop sending children outside the home and the terror and fear remain for months and even years. The main target of those making calls for extortion is well-off businessmen. Investigation also revealed that not all extortion calls were related to militancy.

“In Mohmand and Bajaur, the dispute over mines while in Khyber and some areas of Peshawar, the narcotics money are also the reason for extortion cases,” a source said. It added making ground to get personal security guards as well as seek asylum abroad were also reasons behind some extortion calls.

A source said that the CTD had provided 252 local numbers used in various extortion calls so far to the concerned departments to block them. Apart from that, the source added, 640 Afghan phone numbers used for extortion calls have been shared with the Ministry of Interior and 168 with the ex-Fata Secretariat for further action. Scores of phone numbers were also shared with the Afghan government through proper forums. “The CTD has set up a special desk to deal with the issue of extortion calls. The desk has worked out many cases in the last two months while it managed to block 17 illegal gateways that were being used for calls,” Deputy Inspector General of Police CTD Javed Iqbal Wazir told The News when approached for his comments. He said the CTD had categorised various extortion calls and also made a database of the phone numbers used for the purpose.

Javed Iqbal added that extortion incidents decreased in 2021 and the CTD was taking measures to bring an end to it with the support of army, intelligence agencies, FIA and other departments.