The house of a contractor, who had allegedly received an extortion demand from a militant outfit the day before, was attacked with a hand grenade on Friday, according to the police.
The contractor works for a cement plant near the Wah Cantonment and basically provides transportation services to the cement factory.
His house is located near the cement factory’s housing units, between Wah Cantonment and Hasanabdal, police said.
The contractor had received a phone call on Thursday, in which a person who said he was a member of a banned outfit, attempted to extort “Rs50 million and threatened the carriage contractor of adverse consequences,” an officer at the Wah Cantt police station said.
A day later, a hand grenade was hurled at the man’s house. The grenade exploded in the verandah of the house, but no one was injured in the attack.
The police said it appeared to be an effort to harass the man in to paying the extortion sum.
The incident fits the pattern of how extortionists have operated in-and-around the Rawalpindi district for the last year.
Several traders in Rawalpindi district were at the receiving end of extortion demands and similar grenade attacks at their houses were seen during 2013. The attacks were claimed by extortionists as an expression of the seriousness of their demands.
Rawalpindi traders have admitted to paying millions to extortionists and blamed the police for not helping them overcome this menace. Meanwhile, the police defend themselves by saying the traders do not cooperate with them, but there seems to be little effort on their part to track down the extortionists.
In Islamabad, extortion was rampant in the eastern suburbs of the capital and the Sabzi Mandi area, often under the alleged patronage of the local police, until Islamabad High Court orders forced the cops to make some arrests.
In Rawalpindi, extortionists have been known to use religious affiliations or motives when they demand money, according to traders interviewed earlier.
A man was killed in Raja Bazaar in September 2013 for allegedly refusing to pay extortionists. In some instances, traders in Rawalpindi were forced to relocate from the city to escape the extortion threats.
The Wah Cantt Police Station registered a case for Friday’s hand grenade attack against unidentified persons. According to local sources, the police were providing security to the contractor’s house, but no arrests have been made yet.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2014.