ISLAMABAD -  Threatened by extortionists and abandoned by the Islamabad capital territory police, traders of Islamabad are discussing possibilities of establishing their own force to protect them from extortionists and criminals.

Sources privy to the development told TheNation on Sunday that traders of ‘Sabzi Mandi’ have been holding close door meetings to discuss how to deal with threats posing by extortionists and criminals who have long been collecting extortion from them at gun point. 

Sources quoting some traders said that the idea of establishing own ‘protection army’ hit their minds after ICT police badly failed to protect them from wrath of extortionists.

“It is better to hire gun for self-protection rather than relying on police,” a merchant told TheNation on Sunday requesting anonymity. He confirmed to TheNation that traders were opting to hire services of private security firms for their protection.

“It is just a suggestion, we have discussed possibility of establishing our own security force to deal with extortionists and criminals. It takes time to materialise this idea,” said a merchant who has been participating in close door meetings of traders.

Background interviews and off-the record conversation with traders and security officials revealed the traders and wealthy people even in Islamabad were living under threats from extortionists and criminal gangs operating in Islamabad freely. Shockingly, the police, in some case, was patronizing the extortionists.

On Monday, Islamabad Police Chief suspended Station House Officer of the Sabzi Mandi Police Station for allegedly giving protocol to an alleged extortionist rather than putting him in lock-up.

According to detail, Sikander Hayat, ICT Police Chief, during a surprise visit to Sabzi Mandi Police Station late at night on Monday got to know that the Station House Officer gives special treatment to an alleged extortionist rather than putting him into lock-up. This made the police chief to immediately suspend the SHO Shaukat Thabal, Duty Officer Munir Hussain, ASI and Assistant Moharar for this criminal action.

When contacted, a spokesperson of Islamabad police confirmed the news and said further action was taken against the cops.

Backed allegedly by the higher authorities of Islamabad police and CDA, Afghan gangsters, armed with lethal automatic weapons are collecting billion of rupees annually at gunpoint. Their victims vary from a road side vender to a local businessman and trader.

Located at a distance of about 8 Kilometers away from Prime Minister Secretariat and a few hundreds yard from newly established Sabzi mandi model police station, Islamabad fruit mandi is equally attractive for the traders, policemen, officials of CDA and the extortionists.

Despite loud claims made by the chief of Islamabad Capital territory police that ‘exertion mafia ‘ was on the run from Islamabad following police operation and strict vigilance, the mafia still exists and continuously collecting huge sums from the traders, transporters, warehouse/storage owners and merchants.

“Extortionists, backed by the ICT police and officials of CDA are still collecting exertion from us continuously. We have raised voice against them all. Resultantly, the extortionists are threatening to kill us along with family,” one of top merchants of Islamabad fruit mandi told TheNation on Sunday.  He was not alone to receive threats from extortionists. Rather, a large number of traders and merchants have recently received death threats. “We can’t disclose it publicly due to fear of getting shot down by the extortionists,” a dozen of traders said as they spoke to this correspondent on Wednesday.

These are not empty threats as a number of traders, vendors and even the transporters have been killed by the powerful extortionists gangs after they refuse o hand over exertion money to them. Off the record conversation with the traders, merchants and the venders revealed that law enforcement agencies were supporting the gangs as well.

Directed by the Federal Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, Islamabad Capital police arrested four policemen on the charge of patronizing two groups of extortionists in the fruit and vegetable market of Islamabad.

Police, however, are yet to arrest three employees of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), who were also accused of being hands in glove with the extortionists, are yet to be rounded up.