KARACHI, June 7: As the city remains unable to get rid of targeted killings carried out on political, ethnic and sectarian grounds and rising extortion threats leading to hand grenade attacks mostly on commercial facilities, a shift has been witnessed in the target of kidnappers from the upper class to the middle class with already 50 cases registered over the past five months.
Though the investigators and independent analysts believe that the number of kidnappings for ransom is much higher than the one registered by the police, they find multiple loopholes and flaws in investigations as well as lack of resources and vision from the authorities to cap the menace.
“Last year 112 cases of kidnapping for ransom were registered, while this year we have witnessed some 50 cases so far,” said Ahmed Chinoy, the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) chief.
“I don’t think there is any major difference in terms of number of registered incidents between the two years. But considering the crime trend and increasing criminal activities in 2012, we have managed to keep it at a lower side.”
The CPLC, he claimed, had solved nearly 90 per cent cases last year and most complaints this year too had been successfully addressed with arrest of kidnappers and safe recovery of hostages. Still around eight to nine cases were under investigation, he added, expressing his hope for a positive outcome.
Mr Chinoy said: “We need to dispel this impression that kidnappers are specifically targeting doctors or any other professional community.
In fact they look for better opportunities and make attempts randomly regardless of one’s professional background and it’s merely a coincidence that we have witnessed a sudden surge in doctors’ kidnapping.”
However, he agreed that even people belonging to the middle and lower middle classes were not safe from kidnappers.
One such victim paid more than a million rupees to secure his safe return after spending three days at an ‘undisclosed hideout’ of the kidnappers. An engineer by profession and with a humble family background, he is still reeling from the scariest experience of his life.
“I was driving back home from my workplace when I was intercepted near Northern Bypass and whisked away in another vehicle leaving my car abandoned,” he said while requesting anonymity.
“For two days, my family and the kidnappers remained engaged in bargaining a deal. It was an uphill task for my family to arrange the ransom money but finally with the help of relatives and friends they paid the ransom and got me released.”
For experts having an experience in dealing with this particular crime, multiple reasons keep police investigators away from attaining desired results. They find a specialised unit with training focused on kidnappings for ransom and technological support for value addition to the investigation crucial to meet the challenge.
“But for all these objectives, there should be willingness and sincerity, which are unfortunately missing,” said former CPLC chief Jameel Yusuf who personally handled dozens of such cases between 1996 and 2003.
“After 9/11, I foresaw that the trend of kidnapping for ransom may rise and at that time I proposed a specialised unit and an efficient response team. But neither is still in place,” he said.
Probe into kidnapping-for-ransom cases was a 24/7 job that could not be handled by the institutions already overburdened with the investigation of other crimes, he argued.
Before moving forward, he said, three steps could bring down the number of crime with immediate effect.
“Firstly, you need to streamline the sale of cellphone connections. Secondly, you have to keep vulnerable areas under strict watch and finally you equip investigators with modern gadgets to help them trace kidnappers on a fast track basis,” added Mr Yusuf.