Successful businessmen drawing unwanted attention

*Twin cities’ businessmen live in fear, a large number of whom have recently received death threats from extortionists
AFP

RAWALPINDI: Apparently due to the lack of effective action by the police, the entire business community of the twin cities lives in the shadow of fear arising from the threat by the extortion mafia run by the Taliban and other non-state/anti-state elements.Sources claims the extortionists are constantly looting the top businessmen in the twin cities. A few law enforcement agencies are also involved in this heinous crime, a senior official of the Rawalpindi police revealed on the condition of anonymity in an exclusive interaction with this scribe at the headquarters of an intelligence agency. “We raised our voice against them (extortionists) and they are now threatening to kill us along with our immediate family members,” one of the top merchants of Rawalpindi revealed to the police. A large number of traders have recently received death threats, police confirmed to Daily Times. According to sources, the owner of Savor Foods, a restaurant which offers affordable food to the inhabitants of the twin cities, was contacted several times by the extortionists and this was reported to the law enforcement authorities. The apparent negligence of the police emboldened the extortionists who detonated a remote-controlled bomb outside the restaurant, spreading fear among the business community. While speaking to Daily Times a police official associated with the investigation said that the incident was being interrogated thoroughly from all possible aspects. The official confirmed that with the help of CCTV cameras footage it will be easy to point out and arrest the culprits.On the other hand, the top police brass claims it is making all possible efforts to get hold of the situation. Regional Police Officer (RPO) Akhtar Hayat Lalika directed investigators to nab the extortionists involved in the College Road blast in which 19 people, including a girl, were injured. He has also directed the police to catch the culprits within the given 15-day deadline.Lalika also said that different teams have been constituted to probe the incident on scientific lines. A case has been lodged on Friday against three unidentified men for the terrorist attack on a food outlet at DAV College Road which left 16 injured, most of them workers and passers-by. Muhammad Naeem, the owner of Savor Foods, has told the police in his statement that the story began in December 2013 when unidentified persons began making threatening calls to him and his younger brother Muhammad Nadeem. The two are running a roaring business in the twin cities.“Arrange 50 million rupees or face dire consequences,” Naeem quoted the caller who identified himself as a commander of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). However, the police did not take the threats seriously, he regretted. These were no hollow threats, Naeem said, and added that in January 2014 a blast took place outside their house situated in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Islamabad. “The blast was a warning from the extortionists,” Naeem told the police. The police had registered a case but failed to trace and arrest the accused. Sihala Police had registered a case against unidentified accused and investigation is still on, police confirmed. The extortion networks have penetrated deep into the system with multiple overlaps of terrorists and criminals. There is a little hope of relief for the target communities, especially the traders and businessmen. The issue was earlier highlighted in the media in September 2013 when the merchants of Islamabad fruit market were paying huge sums to extortionists. “According to my investigation, these merchants pay Rs 4.5 million each month to keep their businesses running. According to the investigations the TTP was collecting huge sums with the help of local affiliates. The background interviews and off-the-record conversations with traders and security officials revealed that the traders and wealthy people in Islamabad were under constant threats from extortionists and criminal gangs that are operating freely in Islamabad.

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