ISLAMABAD - Asma Bibi, a housewife and mother of three-year-old kid, is having sleepless nights these days because she is receiving threatening letters and calls from a group of extortionists.
This started on Friday last when Asma's aging mother discovered a letter lying in the lawn of their house situated in Rawal Town. The lady picked up the letter and handed it over to her daughter. Asma went pale as she read the letter.
"It was a threatening letter from unknown extortionist. He advised us to contact him on the number mentioned at the letter," Asma told The Nation. The letter reads as:
"This is to inform you that we have been monitoring your house for two weeks. We are sure that you are a well-off family and can pay huge sum to save your lives. We are into business of target killing, burglary, kidnapping and extortion. You are advised to refrain yourself from informing media or police about this letter. Just arrange money and let us know. Our men will collect it from your place at any appropriate time," stated the letter.
As advised, confused and worried Asma contacted the extortionist at 03235020591 and asked for their demand. She was directed to arrange one million rupees.
"Arrange one million rupee in a couple of days. Otherwise, we can kidnap your son," Asma was told.
Belonging to a middle class family, Asma has no idea how to arrange money to pay to extortionists who threatened her of dire consequences. The family, even, did not dare inform the police. "It is useless to inform police," Asma said.
These are no empty threats. In the past, extortionists had been collecting huge sums from traders, businessmen and elite class of Islamabad.
On January 2, 2014, a blast took place outside the house of a noted businessman Muhammad Naeem of Islamabad situated in Defence Housing Authority, Islamabad. "It was a warning from the extortionists," Naeem told police which had registered a case but failed to trace and arrest the accused. "Sihala police had registered a case against unknown accused and investigation is still on," Muhammad Amin, an ASI of Sihala police told The Nation.
The extortion networks have penetrated deep into the system with multiple overlaps of various terrorists and criminals, and little hope for relief to the target communities, especially the traders and businessmen.
The issue of extortion had captured media headline last year when former IGP Islamabad told the Islamabad High Court on September 9, 2013 that merchants of Islamabad fruit market were paying huge sums to extortionists to keep running their businesses. "According to my investigation, these merchants pay Rs 4.5 million every month to keep their businesses running," former IGP Sikander Hayat had told the court.
"It's true that Islamabad has become heaven for kidnappers and extortionists. During the investigations, we came to know that TTP is collecting huge sums with the help of local terrorists," a mid-career police officer of Islamabad police, requesting anonymity, told this scribe.