Honey-trapping cases on the rise

Kidnappers adopt tactics used for ransom in riverine areas of Sindh

Nouman Sheikh/Muhammad Shahzad February 12, 2023


The decades-old method of honey-trapping people and kidnapping them for ransom by criminals in Sindh has been adopted by gangs in Lahore.

Since September last year, at least five cases of abduction for ransom by suspects based in riverine areas were reported in the provincial capital.

The most recent case was registered in Chung Police station earlier this week, where Lahore Police are looking for a 60-year-old man, reportedly a victim of honey-trapping, who was allegedly abducted by suspects in a riverine area of South Punjab.

The victim, Tasweer Hussain, reportedly travelled to Khushab for work from his house in Chung, eventually losing contact with his family and causing his son to report his disappearance. His son registered a complaint before police after the family received a call for ransom. The suspected kidnappers had demanded a ransom of over Rs5 million.

After registration of the case, police launched an investigation and traced the ransom call to a riverine area in South Punjab. Lahore DIG Investigations Sohail Akhtar Sukhera took notice of the incident. Police said that they were investigating the matter and searching for the suspects involved in the bid.

In September last year, a man identified as Zubair and his uncle, Shaukat, were reportedly going to attend a marriage ceremony in Sukkur but went missing. Later, the family received a ransom call and they registered a case before police. However, police could only register an FIR.

Kidnappings by suspects in kacha (riverine areas) are not limited to Lahore only. In December last year, Nasir Mehmood from Gujranwala had also been abducted for ransom. The suspected kidnappers made video calls to the family while torturing the victim and demanded Rs5 million for his release. A case was registered at Peoples Colony police station. Two more kidnapping cases of a similar fashion were also reported from Gujranwala.

Kacha region’s notoriety

Kacha is a riverine area along the banks of the Indus River, spanning upto hundreds of kilometers in Sindh and South Punjab. The presence of dense forests, swamps and a general lack of infrastructre have made it a haven for hardened criminal gangs. Due to the difficult terrain, it is virtually untouched by police and abductions for ransom contribute greatly to the economy of the area. Imdad Hussain Sahito stated in his book “Decade of the Dacoits” that the area has been in the complete control of criminals since 1980. Between 1984 and 1994, over 11,436 people were kidnapped for ransom and over Rs2 billion was collected by these suspects.

Honey trap

Initially, the suspected kidnappers would target influential and wealthy personalities in adjoining districts and areas to lure them to their hide out and release them after receiving a ransom. However, with the passage of time, their methods evolved and for some time, both in kacha areas of Sindh and Punjab, kidnappers have been honey-trapping their victims.

The suspects would lure the victims by offering monetary benefits like getting them a tractor for cheap rates, buying them live stock and other hollow promises. Women luring victims through building a romantic relationship and enticing them to visit the area has also been employed as a tactic for quite some time.

Sindh Police have placed billboards warning people to refrain from being trapped by such calls or offers. As cases in the province started multiplying, Punjab Police have also run a campaign sensitising the public about honey-traps laid by suspects in kacha.

The Punjab Police and other law enforcement agencies have been at loggerheads for over a decade regarding the suspected criminals in kacha and launched many operations, causing the loss of lives and resources for both sides. The most notable operation, “Zarb-e-Ahan,” as carried out against the Chotu Gang.

Over the years, the police has developed a specialized “Riverine Patrolling Force” to operate and build strongholds in the difficult terrain where access by personnel is nearly impossible. In December of last year, the police also launched an app to track the activities of the Riverine Police as well as the kacha suspects.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2023.


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