Like the messages about a predator zooming around the narrow lanes of Zamzama in a Prado, another rumour about 50 school-going children being kidnapped from Defence and Clifton over the past week has been doing the rounds on social media. The police insisted that three students were actually abducted in the city.
Two of these cases took place in North Nazimabad, where the children were released without any ransom payments, and one in Malir Cantonment, where the family paid the kidnappers. In the first two cases, the police also managed to arrest four suspects. Investigators have reason to believe that the same group was behind the North Nazimabad incidents, but a separate group was involved in the one in Malir Cantt.
Anti-Violent Crime Cell’s (AVCC) chief SSP Niaz Khosa told The Express Tribune that the kidnapped schoolchildren belong to middle-class families and their fathers run their own businesses. “After proper monitoring, the kidnappers intercepted the cars or vans at gunpoint and took away the children,” he said. The suspects moved the children to undisclosed locations and made phone calls to the families for ransom. They also warned them of dire consequences if the payments were delayed or if the police was contacted, he added.
“The families contacted us immediately,” he said. “Then the AVCC and the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) went on to rescue the children.”
In the first case, five-year-old Rafiq*, son of a businessman, was kidnapped on January 21 this year from North Nazimabad. He was on his way to tuitions in a van when the suspects stopped the vehicle and took away the boy along with the driver’s cellphone.
They used the same phone to call Rafiq’s family and demanded Rs5 million as ransom. They kept calling the family and the negotiations continued until they struck a deal at Rs1.5 million. The family was called in at Sohrab Goth.
The CPLC was monitoring the family’s movements the whole time so when the kidnappers came to collect the money, the CPLC and AVCC personnel opened fire. In the resulting shootout, suspects Ali Gauhar and Mehram Khan were wounded and later arrested.
After the interrogation, the suspects led the police to a house near the Ship Owners College in North Nazimabad from where Rafiq was rescued on February 6, and two more suspects, Tahir Siddiq and Rehman, were arrested. The same group was also involved in a kidnapping in 2011, when the family had to pay Rs1 million to get their child back.
Around 10 days ago, a 13-year-old boy was kidnapped while he was on his way to school with a driver in Malir Cantt. The kidnappers released him the next day without any ransom. “We are trying to figure out ourselves why the kidnappers released the boy,” said CPLC chief Ahmed Chinoy. “Perhaps, the reasons for kidnapping were different, but we can’t say anything until the investigations are complete and the suspects have been arrested.”
The law enforcement agencies have, however, denied news reports claiming that 50 school-going children from Defence and Clifton have been kidnapped in the past week. “This news item only creates panic and nothing else,” said AVCC chief Khosa. “We conducted a proper inquiry, which revealed that apart from the three cases mentioned above, there were no other kidnappings.”
The CPLC also denied that 50 children went missing from schools. “This is a city, not a village that 50 school-going children would go missing and no one will find out,” said Chinoy. “These rumours are about posh areas where influential men live. At least one of them would have complained if there was any truth to these reports.”
Meanwhile, district South SSP Nasir Aftab felt that these rumours are intended to make him look incompetent. “I accept that I am unaware of these alleged kidnappings, but have the CPLC, AVCC and the media all failed to find out anything?”
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2013.
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