KARACHI - Exploiting the public fear of the militant group, criminal gangs in Pakistan are using Taliban's name to extort money from businessmen, traders and citizens in the south Asian Muslim country.
We have busted various gangs, and arrested several individuals who had been using Taliban's cover to commit different kinds of crimes, particularly kidnap for ransom and extortion, Farooq Awan, a senior official of the anti-violent crime cell in the Karachi police, told OnIslam.net.
Nearly 50 people have been arrested over involvement in kidnap-for-ransom in the name of the Taliban.
The most interesting case surfaced last month when a Chinese employer was arrested in Karachi.
The attackers threatened the victim's family to kill the hostage if they did not pay a ransom of $100,000.
They also sent pictures of some bearded people to the hostage's wife, dubbing them as Taliban members.
But after a week in custody, the hostage was released by the captors without ransom due to the unavailability of a proper place.
Later, it was found out that the captor was a Chinese employee in the same company.
He was taken into police custody and confessed that he had kidnapped his boss as he thought that his family would not take a long time to pay ransom after hearing the Taliban's name.
This is not the only case, Awan, a senior police superintendent, said.
We have recently arrested an employee of a local business man, who too had kidnapped his boss for ransom in the name of Taliban.
Karachi, the commercial hub of Pakistan, is known for violence, where ethnic and sectarian terrorism has claimed 2,000 lives in the past year.
The city is also a haven for criminals who have been involved in bank robberies, kidnap for ransom, car theft, and other crimes taking advantage of the shortage of police personnel and lack of a proper security plan.
Fearing Taliban Police officials believe that criminals are using the Taliban's name to improve their bargain position.
This is an issue of rating, Awan told OnIslam.net.
If an ordinary criminal uses the name of Taliban, he can be in a better bargain position exploiting the fear of Taliban.
The country's business community is the prime target of extortionists and kidnappers who have been using Taliban cover.
Extortion has become an organized crime in Pakistan, especially in Karachi, for the past decade.
Earlier, only selected businessmen, traders and rich people had to pay money to area criminals for their security, but, nowadays, according to police sources, almost 99 percent businessmen and traders are being extorted in one way or other.
Businessmen and traders receive letters from different criminal groups weekly or monthly for the money.
In many cases, when they refuse to entertain the criminals' demands, their houses, shops and factories are attacked.
Using Taliban's name (by criminals) has become a fashion nowadays, Fayyaz Khan of the Central Investigation Cell (CID), who has arrested many so-called Taliban, told OnIslam.net.
Observers opine that the bloody clashes between Taliban and both Pakistani and US forces in the northern belt and neighboring Afghanistan have painted a grim picture of the militant group, playing into the hands of criminals.
The extortionists or kidnappers think that the victims will not dare contact the police if they use the Taliban's name, Khan said, referring to incidents in which the Taliban have beheaded their opponents and later released their videos.
These videos have increased their fear in the society.
Awan, who rose to fame in 2001 when he had detained the accused involved in the kidnap and killing of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi, said after reports and confessions of criminals involved in extortion and kidnap for ransom, the Taliban deputy commander Wali-ur-Rehman had to issue a statement asking citizens not to pay any money to anyone in the Taliban's name.Even he has given telephone numbers of Waziristan for general public, if they are threatened or asked for money by any Taliban, Awan said.