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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Extortion in Lahore: Buzdar inherits menace from Shahbaz

News Analysis |

In the provincial capital of Lahore, criminal elements have fired at four people over nonpayment of extortion money. The targets were injured and were shifted to hospital. The latest incident has highlighted the menace of extortion in the heart of Punjab. According to Samaa news, five people in the Shah Jamal area of Lahore demanded extortion money from shopkeepers. The shopkeepers refused to give up to the criminals. On the denial of the shopkeepers, the extortionists became enraged and started firing. Due to the firing, four shopkeepers were severely wounded. Those who were injured were taken to hospital for medical assistance.

Commonly thought of as a crime limited to Karachi, extortion has been festering in Lahore for a long time. On 30th August, a similar incident happened at Nawab Town in Lahore. The extortionists fired at a property dealer’s office on not giving extortion money. The Property dealer, Haji Saeed, was injured in the firing. Saeed was shifted to Jinnah Hospital in critical condition for medical aid. According to the police, raids have been carried out to apprehend the culprits.

Extortion in the city of Lahore is an open secret. The PML-N administration kept a lid on the issue through suppressing stories on the media and the refusal of the police to list the crimes as extortion.

Similarly, two brothers were assaulted and tortured in Lahore’s Baghbanpura area for not giving extortion on July 26. The victims have said that the police personnel has not lodged any case against the suspects despite the presence of the CCTV footage as evidence. They also demanded the higher authorities take notice of the incident. Earlier, in April 2018, National TV screens were awash with the footage of a brazen firing incident in Misri Shah Lahore. The firing happened when one of the victims refused the demand of the culprit Rana Bilal to pay 2 lakh Rupees as extortion money.

In return, Rana Bilal started firing on the victims in broad daylight. The footage captured by CCTV was shown on all news channels. The Punjab Police in their usual style tried to brush the incident under the rug by labeling it as an outcome of “old rivalry”. These incidents seem to have negated the assertions of DIG Operations, Punjab Police Dr. Haider Ashraf. The DIG had stated in October 2017 that “no gang of organized criminals exists in the provincial metropolis as police did not receive any complaint regarding extortion or target killing.”

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In 2016, Pakistan Muslim League-Q leader, PML-N, Lahore Mian Kamran Saif, had expressed concerns on the incident of firing upon shopkeepers for not giving extortion in Lahore. The specific incident happened in Islampura Lahore that resulted in two people getting injured. He expressed his worries that the shopkeepers in Lahore were being forced to give extortion money. Upon refusal, they are fired upon. He cited other examples as well where traders of Lahore were harassed and injured by extortionists for not complying with their demands. Mian Kamran Saif contended that after the military operation in Karachi, the operations of extortionist groups had turned towards Lahore and they are also worsening the conditions of Lahore like Karachi.

It is imperative that a Karachi-style operation is carried out in Lahore to cleanse it of such elements. Harsh action should be taken by the government in order to eliminate these groups who are destroying the peaceful atmosphere of Lahore. In January 2016, one laborer was killed while two others were injured on Sunday when they refused to pay extortion money. As per details, extortionist, Siddique, demanded Rs 200 from workers of Nishtar Colony vegetable market as extortion money, but they refused to pay any money. On that, Siddique opened fire, injuring three laborers on the market.

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Extortion in the city of Lahore is an open secret. The PML-N administration kept a lid on the issue through suppressing stories on the media and the refusal of the police to list the crimes as extortion. Instead, they were titled as “rivalry between groups”. Since 2013, traders in Lahore have been complaining of being faced with the menace of extortionists. They had organized a protest in which they claimed that powerful groups were behind the racket. Now it seems that as the new PTI administration takes over the largest province of the country, it will be facing the dragon of extortion that has flourished due to the apathy of the previous administration.