As extortion and kidnapping for ransom cases continue to rise, the Sindh Rangers have decided that it is time to take matters into their own hands and form a Special Task Force.
During the nine-month long Karachi operation, the Rangers and police claimed to have arrested over 27,000 suspects - including extortionists and kidnappers, a few of them were also killed in encounters. Despite all of this, the law enforcement agencies have not been able to help traders and shopkeepers who are receiving extortion and kidnapping treats.
According to a senior Rangers official, the Force is being set up due to public demand. "The business community will continue to carry out their daily work under the supervision of the Rangers," he said. "The task force will most likely become operational in a week's time. The men will be equipped with the latest weapons and will also be in touch with the Sindh police special cell which is already working on such cases."
The Force will be led by individuals who have dealt with law and order facilities run under community participation. One of them is Najeeb Danawala.
"DG Rangers will supervise the Force while I will run it as the director," he said while talking to The Express Tribune. "Besides my team members, Rangers personnel will also be working with us."
Initially, the Force will operate from their temporary offices located at the Old Haji Camp in Sultanabad and a central office will be set up later.
"This Force will be like a replica of an earlier experiment done in this regard," Danawala explained. "We will also launch our offices in different zones of the city and all offices will be interlinked with the main head office." He added that traders will also become a part of the Rangers Task Force soon.
Traders complain that the incidents of extortion and kidnapping for ransom have increased with the advent of Ramazan.
While talking to The Express Tribune, the chairman of the Karachi Tajir Ittehad, Atiq Mir, said that the extortion and kidnapping cases had increased exponentially. He added that despite the fact the Karachi operation was still going on, law enforcers might have been able to control the situation but had not been able to stop these things from happening. He claimed that this is why the criminals were gaining power and kept doing what they did.
The Rangers have asked citizens of Karachi to not give zakat to banned outfits or militant groups. Information regarding any individual or group of people collecting zakat for a banned organisation must be reported on the Rangers helpline. According to the Rangers spokesperson, they have also set up a team to take action against anyone who is extorting zakat from the residents of Karachi.
At the last hearing of the Karachi law and order suo motu case at the Supreme Court Karachi registry, the judges were told that there has been a decrease of 62% in cases of target killings in Karachi since the launch of the targeted operation in September, 2013. The Sindh IG's report also claimed that 225 target killers were arrested and charge sheets against them were submitted in the courts. The courts, meanwhile, have not extended bail to any suspect.
The report also said that 109 accused in cases of kidnappings were taken into custody, while another nine were killed during the operation in Karachi. "All of the arrested accused are in jail. No bail has been granted in any case," the report said. The IG's report showed a slight reduction in cases of extortion, as 1,147 FIRs were registered during the operation as compared to 1,245 during the corresponding period before the operation. It said that 321 extortionists were arrested during the operation while another six suspects were killed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2014.