Monday November 28, 2022

Extortion calls & grenade attacks trigger concerns

July 02, 2022

PESHAWAR: Frequent extortion calls to well-off people and grenade attacks have become a source of concern for the local people who had enjoyed a relatively peaceful environment for some time compared to the past.

Not only a large number of people have received calls for extortion in the last few months, but also a few houses, factories and other places have come under attack with grenades and rockets. Police on several occasions claimed attacks had nothing to do with extortion and attributed them to local disputes.

“On Friday morning a grenade was lobbed into a house at the Khushal Bagh Town in the limits of Michni Gate Police Station that went off without causing any casualty.

However, the windowpanes of nearby houses were smashed and a vehicle was partially damaged in the explosion,” a cop said. The owner of the house, Muhammad Hayat, is a property dealer and has no enmity.

Earlier, the house of a leader of the Jamat-e-Islami, Niaz Mohammad, was attacked with a grenade in Badaber last week that injured three people.

The house of a worker of the Awami National Party was attacked within the limits of the Agha Mir Jani Shah (formerly Yakatoot) Police Station recently that leaving three persons injured.

A couple of houses were attacked with grenades on the Ring Road, Hayatabad, Urmar, Badaber and other parts of Peshawar in the last few months that damaged the buildings.

A factory was attacked with explosives in the Hayatabad Industrial Estate recently, apparently for not paying extortion. After most of the grenade explosions, police claimed the motive of these attacks was personal disputes and not extortion.

It is even a more dangerous trend that explosives are being used in urban, suburban and rural areas to target rivals if one believes in the police version.

Another alarming trend was noticed when a beheaded and maimed body was found on the outskirts of Peshawar recently and relatives accused rivals of the cruelty.

Apart from civilians, the office of the Superintendent of Police Saddar, police stations in Badaber and Phandu, a couple of other police buildings in Hayatabad and a patrolling van have come under attack with grenades in the past few months that injured several policemen.

Some officials said the gang behind these attacks on police has been busted.

There are reports that a large number of businessmen, industrialists and other wealthy people have received extortion calls in the last few months, not only in Peshawar but also in several other districts of the province.

Of late, a special anti-extortion desk has been set up at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) to deal with all such cases and bust the networks.

Reports said in most cases the extortionists call the local people on WhatsApp from Afghan cell phone numbers which are relatively hard to trace. The callers also use letters as well as local numbers on WhatsApp.

Most of those receiving extortion calls restrict movement, install CCTV cameras and exercise care since police cannot provide security in all such cases.

A spokesman for the capital city police could not provide details when asked as to how many cases of grenade attacks and extortion calls have been reported in Peshawar in the last six months. Another cop said a number of letters were written by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police to the federal government in the past years to take up the issue of calls from Afghan phone numbers with the authorities in Afghanistan. He said the CTD and local police have busted gangs and held many individuals for extortion calls and grenade attacks in recent years and months.

Reports said that apart from extortion, an increase has been reported in street crimes as well as kidnapping for ransom in recent months.

A lawmaker of the Awami National Party, Sardar Hussain Babak, the other day expressed concern in the KP Assembly that well-off Afghan traders have been picked up in the last several months from Peshawar for ransom.