Religious seminary receives extortion letters in Lower Dir

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Peshawar: Incidents of extortion are not new to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which may well be on its way to leave behind the country’s capital of extortion – Karachi. But while one has heard and read about threatening letters from criminals demanding extortion from the well-heeled around the country, they have gone for an unlikely target in the Lower Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  – an Islamic seminary.

The seminary in question has received two threatening letters recently, demanding 2.5 million rupees. It is situated in Malakabad village of Lower Dir district of  the KP-Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) – about 400 Kilometer south of Islamabad, the capital city.

A copy of the extortion letters made available to News Lens by the district police reveals suspects threatening the owner of the seminary to pay rupees 2.5 million or face consequences.

The seminary has more than 80 students from different parts of KP including Bannu, Kohistan, Chitral and Afghanistan. It is registered with the Government of Pakistan and is owned and run by a well-off family in the village that lives close to the seminary.

The letter says: “We are a dangerous gang of criminals. Take the threat serious or we will kidnap one of your sons.”

The letter said the sender needs the money within ten days. The letters are hand-written and were kept inside the main gate of the seminary along with three bullets inside a envelope – signifying a mortal threat.

Recently, the Government of Pakistan has started cracking down on unregistered seminaries across the country, considered a security threat to the country. For security reasons, seminaries and shrines situated in the dominion of police station Sector-I/9 in Islamabad – Aabpara, Shazad Town and the Secretariat – would be close for a week prior to the military parade on March 23 – Pakistan Day.

On condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, a former administrator of the seminary told News Lens that he got a text message via phone late at night.The message contained threatening words and directed him to go to the seminary and receive the letters.

“It’s urgent, pick the letters dropped at the main gate of your seminary,” said the text message.

“I have no enmity nor have i faced such embarrassing situation in my entire life,” said the seminary administrator.

He he had filed First Information Report (FIR) at the local police station and the police has arrested the suspect whose mobile phone was used to send the text message. The suspect, according to the police, has been shifted to undisclosed location for investigation.

The arrested suspect is a student at the local government college. He belongs to the same village where the administration of the seminary lives.

Muhammad Imran, Station House Officer (SHO), Balambat Police Station told News Lens that he had arrested the suspect with the help of security agencies. The case has been forwarded to the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).

Imran said: “A case has been registered against the suspect under sections 506,386,387,15 AA of Pakistan Penal Code in the Counter Terrorism Department of district swat”. The suspect is currently in the judicial lock up and further investigation is underway.

While the case is under investigation, the family of the accused has been trying to resolve the issue outside the court to protect its honour.

Family sources of the administrator of the seminary who wished not be named due to security reasons told News Lens via phone that father of the suspect has sent a “Jirga” including elders of the village to pardon his son.

The family of the suspect have rendered apology to the family of the administrator.

“Our family has agreed to pardon the suspect and decided to withdraw the case against him,” said the family member of the seminary administer.

The rising rate of violence related to extortion in the provincial capital of Peshawar has triggered an exodus of businessmen and industrialists from the city to safer places as far as Gulf countries.

According to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry around 150 professionals have left the province due to the fear of extortionists and threatening calls demanding for money.

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