After successfully infusing terror in the minds of the masses, some Taliban groups are now involved in extorting money from businessmen — based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, police officials say.
Umar Riaz, the senior superintendent police (SSP) who heads the investigation branch in Peshawar, says cases of extortion by Taliban have been reported in Peshawar’s Matani area. The Taliban of Mohmand Agency also receive protection money or bhatta from Mohmand traders based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as in their native tribal agency. “Around 50 per cent of the people contacted by such groups agree to pay bhatta after doing some bargaining over the amount,” says an official of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) who does not want to be named. This, the traders believe, is better than being kidnapped and going through the emotional and physical trauma attached with kidnapping, he adds.
A police source who knows how the extortion system works, tells the Herald that the Taliban usually have detailed information about the wealth, income and assets of the people they call to demand bhatta. “First they [the militants] make a call to their target and ask for money. If the receiver of the call says that it is impossible for him to arrange the huge amount of money being demanded, he is provided with all the information about his assets including his bank balance,” the source says. At the next stage, an explosive device is blown up in his car or near his house, in order to make him realise that he has no option but to pay, he adds.
In one such case, according to the IB official, the Taliban sent a message to a Matani-based hundi operator and demanded three million rupees as bhatta which the Taliban usually dub as donation for their “holy cause”. After the businessman did not pay the money, the militants blew up a bomb near the entrance of his house, killing a women working in the house. Officials say such terror tactics also force most people paying bhatta to avoid registering cases with the police.