Showing posts with label ransom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ransom. Show all posts

Friday, December 30, 2011

Terrorism alert: ‘Punjab is home to banned organisations’

Express Tribune, Pakistan
Terrorism alert: ‘Punjab is home to banned organisations’
By Rana Tanveer
Published: December 30, 2011
In 2010, the province suffered 32 attacks, in which 257 people, including 24 policemen, were killed. DESIGN: NABEEL ABDUSAMAD.
In 2010, the province suffered 32 attacks, in which 257 people, including 24 policemen, were killed. DESIGN: NABEEL ABDUSAMAD.
LAHORE: The city witnessed two explosions in 2011 which left 13 people dead and 112 injured. More than 250 were killed in 18 terrorist activities in 2010.

In the first incident, on January 25, at Ghora Chowk, Urdu Bazar, a suicide bomber killed 10 people and injured 85. The second incident, on February 3, a bombing, killed three people and injured 27 near Haider Sayeen shrine.

Shahbaz Taseer, son of late Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and US citizen Warren Weinstein were kidnapped for ransom during the year.

Shahbaz was abducted from Gulberg on August 27, while Weinstein was picked up from his Model Town residence.

Security officials have claimed that Al Qaeda operatives are behind both abductions.

The police have still no clue to the whereabouts of Amir Aftab Malik, son-in-law of Gen (retd) Tariq Majeed, who was kidnapped at gunpoint on August 25, 2010.

Some defence analysts hold the view that the operations in Tribal Areas have effected the network of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which had resulted in a lull in incidents of terrorism. They say there is no evidence to conclude that the terrorists have changed their policy permanently.

Prof Hasan Askari Rizvi said overall incidents of terrorism had decreased but noted that some high profile attacks had occurred. He said the reduction was due to the operations being conducted in Tribal Areas. Rizvi added that TTP apparently lacked training facilities as many suicide attackers had been arrested last year. He said recruitment of suicide bombers had likely been denied by the operations in Tribal Areas.

Rizvi said Aiman al Zawahri had claimed to be behind the kidnapping of Weinstein. He said it was evident that Al Qaeda and TTP were involved in these high profile kidnappings.

Rizvi noted that last year several banned organisations, like Sipah-i-Sahaba and Jamatud Dawa, were allowed to continue their activities. He said although these organisations were limited to the Punjab they could surprise and harm to the security establishment, which currently is patronising them.

He said because the Punjab was relatively more conservative and had more of an ‘anti-India’ element than other provinces, these banned organisations had settled here. He said intelligence agencies were using these organisations to put pressure on the US and the Pakistani government against drone attacks and granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India. He said these organisations were also opposed to the military for its role in the war on terror.

A Counter Terrorism Department police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that terrorists had suspended operations in the settled areas. He said it was evident from intelligence reports that many TTP leaders and operatives were alive and in regular contact. He said even Lahore was not free of TTP operatives.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011.

Copyrighted © 2011 The Express Tribune News Network

Thursday, February 3, 2011

“No option” but to abide by PM’s decision on blasphemy: Sherry

Daily Dawn, Pakistan
“No option” but to abide by PM’s decision on blasphemy: Sherry
February 03, 2011
Sherry Rehman — (File Photo)
Sherry Rehman — (File Photo)

ISLAMABAD: A liberal lawmaker on Thursday accused Pakistan’s prime minister of sabotaging efforts to reform blasphemy laws that have been widely condemned by rights groups.

“Appeasement of extremism is a policy that will have its blowback,” said Sherry Rehman, a lawmaker for the main ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

The former information minister petitioned parliament to reform the legislation in November after a Christian woman was sentenced to death, but the private member’s bill was never listed on parliament’s agenda.

Despite escalating international condemnation and the murder of politician Salman Taseer for backing reform, the government refuses to consider any amendment, bowing to protest from the nation’s powerful religious right-wing.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday told lawmakers that Rehman “agreed to withdraw her bill according to party policy”.

“The prime minister categorically made it clear that government has no intention to amend the law. Neither he nor the speaker of the national assembly has constituted any committee to consider the amendment bill,” his office said.

A furious Rehman disagreed, but said she had “no option” but abide by the decision after the prime minister ruled out any discussion.

“It was a question of protecting our citizens from injustice done in the name of a religion that values peace and tolerance more than anything else,” she said.

The government had pledged to keep intact the blasphemy law on December 30, in a bid to head off threatened protests.

The move exposed Rehman and Taseer as lone campaigners. Five days later Taseer was murdered outside an Islamabad cafe by his bodyguard, since lauded a hero by hundreds of religious conservative clerics, student activists and lawyers.

The law stirred fresh controversy this week after the arrest of a 17-year-old boy for allegedly writing a blasphemous comment in a school exam.

Human rights campaigners say the law encourages Islamist extremism and is too often used to settle personal scores.

“Pakistan has set the standard for intolerance when it comes to misusing blasphemy laws, but sending a schoolboy to jail for something he scribbled on an exam paper is truly appalling,” said Human Rights Watch.

While the law carries a maximum penalty of death, those sentenced to hang in the past have had their sentences overturned or commuted on appeal.

©2010 DAWN Media Group. All rights reserved

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kidnapping for ransom a boon for militants

Daily Dawn, Pakistan
Kidnapping for ransom a boon for militants
From the Newspaper
January 26, 2011

ISLAMABAD, Jan 25: Kidnapping for ransom has always been a well-paying crime but the entry of militants has made this more profitable, which is why the incidence of the case is continuously rising.

Senior investigating officers of police claim that militants are involved in kidnapping cases in all corners of Pakistan.

“They are directly involved in kidnapping in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, especially in Karachi, and Islamabad,” one police officer tells Dawn.

Senior police officers say that money is the main reason for the increased incidence of kidnapping though the militants have also started using it as a tactic to pressure law enforcement and intelligence agencies; in a number of cases they refuse to accept money in exchange for the hostage and ask for the release of their arrested accomplices.

“A third reason is also to spread fear,” says a senior policeman.

However, a new trend is the links the militants and the criminal gangs are forming with each other at different levels. These had first been established when kidnappings were carried out by the two groups together. By now it is routine practice for the kidnapping to be carried out by the local criminals of the area the hostage lives in either out of choice or because they have been asked to do so by militants.

In cases where the objective is to collect ransom, the local criminals continue to keep the hostage in their custody. The hostages are said to be kept in hideouts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Central Punjab.

“But at times, especially when the militants want to spread fear, the hostage is kept in their custody,” says a police officer, adding that the Tehrik-i-Taliban militants have an exclusive committee (Shura) which decides the fate of the victims – exchange for ransom, exchange for militants in state custody or spread fear.

With the entry of militants, religion also tends to play a role in the kidnappings from the act to the negotiations to the release. In some cases, militants have picked up hostages, assuming that they were Ahmedi or Shia. The later realisation that the victims were Sunni compelled the militants to accept a reduced ransom. Some years ago a businessman from Islamabad was kidnapped only to be released when he and his kidnappers were intercepted at a checkpost as they were exiting Islamabad.

During interrogations, the kidnappers revealed that they had kidnapped the businessman because they thought he was a Qadiani. A similar perception about a law enforcement personnel’s faith also led to him being kidnapped.

Dawn has learnt that in many cases, religio-political leaders or religious leaders have helped at the negotiation stage. In such cases, the police react according to the politicians, who negotiate with the militants over the ransom, they added.

For instance, even the negotiations over the release of a Polish engineer, Piotr (Peter) Stanczak, were carried out with the help of a religio-political leader. But as the militants demanded the release of their accomplices arrested in connection with suicide attacks in Islamabad, the two sides could reach no agreement. It was after this that the kidnappers killed the engineer.

In some cases, however, as a last resort, prisoners have been exchanged for hostages. This is what happened in the case of foreign engineers from an East Asian country.

As their captors refused to accept ransom money, the government had no choice but to release militants in exchange.

The ‘business’ has spread so far that separate groups of militants have been formed who ‘specialise’ in kidnappings – they select victims, collect information such as financial wherewithal, carry out the reconnaissance of the area. This information is passed on to the militants who then carry out the kidnapping themselves or pass it to other criminal gangs.

“In some kidnapping cases, the hostages’ families were even informed of their bank balances when the ransom was being negotiated,” an officer adds.

One such group is said to be headed by Mullah Sabir and Mullah Rahim which operates from South Waziristan.

Before they used to work independently but later they started kidnapping for ransom for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, said an official.

©2010 DAWN Media Group. All rights reserved

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Govt silence sounds death knell for Faisalabad Ahmedis

---Daily Dawn, Pakistan
Govt silence sounds death knell for Faisalabad Ahmedis
  By Nasir Jamal
  Saturday, 17 Apr, 2010

LAHORE, April 16: It is no longer just a doorbell for Mohammad Iqbal and his family; instead it has a ring of alarm about it. As a boy goes to answer the call the other inhabitants form a line of defence behind him should the visitor turn out to be an unwelcome one. Usually the door stays shut until the visitor’s identity is established and his intent known.

It’s been like this since March 8 when four men kidnapped Iqbal’s teenage son Bilal and nephew Shiraz from Iqbal’s home in Madina Town, a middle class locality in Faisalabad, after robbing the household. The kidnappers told the boys later that their family had been targeted because of their Ahmedi faith.

The boys returned home after six days once Iqbal and his elder brother paid Rs2.5 million against an original ransom demand of Rs10 million. The kidnappers have since been arrested, but the life of Iqbal’s family stands totally transformed. The structure of the house has been altered to make it more secure; as this writer sat with the family members in their living room last Thursday, on the table in front lay a revolver and a handgun.

There are many Ahmedi families in Faisalabad who share Iqbal’s insecurities. They have been terrorised by multiple robberies and kidnappings in recent months. The triple murder of the city’s known businessman Ashraf Pervaiz, his brother Masood Javed and nephew Asif Masood on April 1 intensified this terror. The murders took place in a crowded area: yet no eyewitness has come forward so far.

Though there is no evidence, the murdered victims’ family suspects it to be the work of a militant group known for its involvement in the Kashmir ‘jehad’. “Our family is respected and we have no dispute with anyone. The murderers were trained in the use of arms and were well informed about the movement of their target,” a relative of the murdered businessmen, who does not give his name, tells Dawn. Dr Rashid Karim is a homoeopath who was kidnapped last May, taken to the tribal areas, and released after more than five months on payment of Rs10 million. He says his kidnappers had tried to grill him about Ashraf Pervaiz.

The community’s suspicion about the involvement of a militant outfit and its affiliates in the recent robberies, murders and kidnappings is strengthened by the arrest of the four abductors of Iqbal’s son and nephew.

“The triple murder happened only three days after the police apprehended the accused involved in the incident at Iqbal’s home,” DSP Abid Hussain says. “All of them have said they belong to the Jama’at-ud-Da’awa,” he says.

The accused have confessed that they had obtained a decree from a cleric, Maulvi Usman, allowing robbing and killing Ahmedis. Abid says such people distribute a portion of the looted money.

Yet the Ahmedi community in Faisalabad does not just fear the militant group. “It could be a cleric or a known religious group fomenting hatred against our people for no reason or a militant outfit kidnapping or murdering our people for money. It could also be a local resident or some one from Pakhtunkhwa or Karachi or anywhere else,” says a district-level leader of the Ahmedi community, who did not want to give his name.

“They use mosques and universities to spread malicious propaganda against us. We are scared. Some have already moved out of the city.”

Nonetheless, in certain cases Ahmedis have been targeted for financial considerations. Consider a four-page pamphlet urging Muslims to sever all economic ties with Ahmedis. The pamphlet lists 33 businesses – ranging from a photocopier to a drugs store to a jeweller – being run by Ahmedis. The businesses owned by Ashraf Pervaiz’s family are also mentioned in it.

A large number of Ahmedis in Fasialabad say they have received threatening letters, ‘advising’ them to renounce their faith, before their homes are raided or relatives abducted. “I received a letter about four months before the kidnapping,” says Iqbal. His brother-in-law also got a letter.

The victims say the robbers and the kidnappers have the details about the daily routine of their targets and about their businesses. Probably this is why police officials have advised Ahmedis to change their daily routine. Most of them heeded the advice seriously. But that too didn’t help some, as the April 1 murders show.

The community leaders link the increasing attacks and crimes to official apathy and police inaction. “All this started in 2008 when some people falsely accused 23 Ahmedi students of the Punjab Medical College (PMC) of blasphemy. Under the pressure of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the government and the college administration expelled the accused students. An emboldened SSP used the incident to foment hatred against Ahmedis in the city. Had the government not given in to the SSP the situation today would not have been as bad as it is,” an anonymous community leader argues. He says the PMC incident was followed by the murder of an Ahmedi trader. “A spate of robberies and kidnappings ensued,” he adds.

A major complaint is that none of the cases involving Ahmedis as victims is investigated properly. “The laws and police are the handmaiden of our persecutors,” says an Ahmedi. “Politicians are afraid. A family loses three members and there is not a single word from the chief minister or any other official. Where is Shahbaz Sharif, the self-proclaimed torch-bearer of justice? We deserve to be treated like other citizens but neither the police nor the judiciary is ready to provide us justice.”

©2010 DAWN Media Group. All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A community harried by threats

---Daily Dawn, Pakistan
A community harried by threats
Wednesday, 14 Apr, 2010

FAISALABAD: The fresh wave of heinous crime believed to be perpetrated by a certain religious outfit against a number of Ahmedi families in Faisalabad has forced the latter to move to “safer places.”

The families facing robbery, kidnap for ransom and killing incidents are having sleepless nights more so because of alleged police failure to protect them.

The recent murder of Arshad, Asif and Masood has frightened the community many members of which have gone into hiding. Some of them have accused the police of gross negligence in their case as they say the officials were well informed that the victims (deceased) were on the hit-list of the outlawed organisation.

On April 2 last, assailants shot dead three men after which the police provided constables to the grieved family to allay their fear of any further crime against them.

A member of the community, who talked to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, said the police summoned the notables among them a week before the killing of Dr Arshad and informed them that “some unscrupulous elements are hell-bent on targeting the Ahmedis”. He quoted the police as even saying that the kidnappers of Dr Arshad had been gleaning information about him (Arshad) and his family.

Following the police officials instructions, he said, most of the community people restricted their movement and started adopting other tactics like route-changing but the worst came to pass.

Refusing to give information about the number of Ahmedi families in Faisalabad, he contended it would be injudicious to speak on any such issue amid threats of barbaric activities against them.

Earlier on March 9, some men in the guise of robbers kidnapped two boys of an Ahmedi family — Bilal, son of Iqbal, and his cousin Sheraz — from Madina Town’s Y-Block. They also bagged cash and gold ornaments and released the boys after getting Rs2.5 million ransom. It is alleged that the suspects fled with money in the presence of the police.

Sources said the CIA police arrested the kidnappers who, during preliminary investigation, confessed to having their links with the banned religious outfit. They would not share any further information with the media.

Sources said five activists, including ringleader Ansar, of the group in question had been taken into custody.

A notable of the community said the triple murder might be the act of retaliation of the arrest of some activists who carried a series of crime against Ahmedi people. He criticised the police for their negligence, though had a word of praise for the CIA officials who apprehended the criminals.

He said a police picket close to the murder scene was unusually missing on that day before which the officials had been routinely standing there. He said some police officials claimed there was a picket as usual, although many others contradicted the view.

Another member of the community, a trader of Rail Bazaar, said Arshad was former president of a market association. Regrettably, he said, the trade association neither went on strike nor did it utter a word of condemnation. He said some trade body leaders believed any reaction to the issue would be given a false colouring.

He said the community was being targeted by some elements for the last couple of years; two years ago, the children of about two dozen families were shown the door of the Punjab Medical College (PMC) on blasphemy charges. On June 5, 2008, twenty-three students of the PMC were charged with tearing a poster inscribed with religious precepts pasted at the college hostel.

Yet another member of the community said a sense of insecurity had disturbed them, particularly the businessmen. The families under threat were contemplating migration to places that could provide them a better living, he said.

He said a delegation of Ahmedis called on Regional Police Officer Muhammad Tahir a couple of days ago and conveyed their concerns to him. The RPO, he said, placated them by saying that the law enforcers were making efforts to net the criminals.

©2010 DAWN Media Group. All rights reserved

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Punjab Muslim fundamentalists against the Ahmadis, three traders killed

---Asia News, Italy
» 04/08/2010 10:26

Punjab Muslim fundamentalists against the Ahmadis, three traders killed
by Fareed Khan
Muslim leaders denounce sect a “targeted execution”, in the silence of government officials and police. Recently, the three men had been seized “because of their faith” and released after paying a large sum of money. 108 ahmadi faithful killed since 1984.


Islamabad (AsiaNews) — The persecution of the Ahmadi Muslims continues in Pakistan, considered heretical because they do not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet. On April last three traders were killed in Faisalabad - the third largest city of Punjab. The murder was reported by the leaders of the Ahmadiyya community, who speak of a “targeted execution” by an armed commando who immediately fled the scene.

The elderly man belongs to the Ahmadiyya, a Muslim religious movement condemned as heretical in 1974. With perhaps as many as 3 million followers, especially in Punjab, the Ahmadi community has suffered from harassment and persecution.

Ashraf Pervez, 60, Masood Javed, 57, and Asif Masood, 24, were returning home after the closure of the shops. Suddenly, attackers riddled them with bullets. The three died on their way to hospital. Pervez and Javed were brothers, while Masood was the son of the latter. Two weeks before their death, reports the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the victims had complained of threats to police. The officers had recommended them to “restrict their movement and recruit bodyguards” to protect their safety.

According to leaders of the Ahmadiyya community, most recently the men had been kidnapped and released after paying a high ransom. Criminals have reported that their faith was the cause of the abduction. “It is reasonable to assume that the criminals – reads a statement – or at least their accomplices are known to the authorities, because the groups against the Ahmadis do not bother to hide their hatred.”

Faisalabad has long been the scene of targeted attacks against the Ahmadiyya community. In recent years, nine people were killed without the police or government authorities – who know the perpetrators – intervening. The group’s leaders points the finger at the movement of Khatme Nabuwwat, Islamic followers according to whom the prophecy reaches its full completion with Mohammed, in charge of persecution against Muslims considered “heretics”.

Punjab Law experts can foment violence against the Ahmadis with impunity, claiming that they “be killed” (Wajib ul Qatl). The leaders of the movement denounce the immobility of the authorities, in addition to not punishing the perpetrators of the killings, not even taking a stand against verbal violence.

Since the enactment of the Anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance in 1984 which allows for persecution of the alleged “heretics” 108 people were killed because of their faith. In a few cases the killers were arrested and the few times have appeared before the judges, they were acquitted or freed after a short prison sentence. So far this year, five Ahmadis have been killed.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Slain Ahmadis had sought police protection, Pakistan
The Newspaper > National
Slain Ahmadis had sought police protection
Saturday, 03 Apr, 2010

Sources said that victims Asif, Arshad and Masood contacted People's Colony police in view of the threats a couple of weeks ago and the police advised them to limit their movement and hire guards for their security. - (File Photo)
FAISALABAD: Three people of an Ahmadi family gunned down near Abdullahpur in People’s Colony police precincts on Thursday night were being threatened by unidentified people because of their religious activities, it’s learnt on Friday.

Sources said that victims Asif, Arshad and Masood contacted People’s Colony police in view of the threats a couple of weeks ago and the police advised them to limit their movement and hire guards for their security.

A police official said police were informed that some unknown people, who kidnapped Dr Arshad Karim of Mustafabad, repeatedly questioned him about the movement of Asif and Arshad. He said police talked to Arshad and Asif and came to know that they feared their kidnapping.

Dr Karim was freed one month after his abduction when his family paid Rs3 million ransom. He was kidnapped from the surroundings of the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education on Jail Road.

Madina Town Police Officer Sadiq Dogar said a case had been registered against five unidentified persons under sections 148, 149 and 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act was being added to the FIR. He said raids were being conducted to arrest the suspects.

On March 9, some robbers kidnapped two boys of an Ahmadi family in Madina Town’s Y-Block and took away cash and gold ornaments from the house. They freed the boys, Bilal and Sheraz, after extorting Rs2.5 million from their family.

A police official said Lashkar-i-Taiba men could be behind the kidnappings. — Staff Correspondent

©2010 DAWN Media Group. All rights reserved
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