PESHAWAR -- Police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have launched a massive crackdown on mafias involved in the illegal drug trade, extortion, land grabbing and usury.
KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Muhammad Naeem Khan in mid-September ordered all regional police officers (RPOs) and district police officers (DPOs) to compile lists of all such mafias and launch aggressive efforts against them.
"The officers have been directed to go after the gangs that have been selling drugs to the public, especially to youth and students, extorting money from the public and grabbing land from innocent owners," Khan said.
The RPOs and DPOs have orders to submit fortnightly reports of all their actions against the gangs, he added.
"The progress of every officer in actions against these mafias will be considered performance indicators," he said, adding that the job of the police force is to provide relief to the common person from such gangs.
Residents on a number of occasions have approached the police with complaints over the so-called land mafias, armed groups supported by influential locals that extort the owners of commercial and residential plots.
"There are a number of gangs that demand money from the locals or claim ownership of their plots worth millions so no one can buy it," said Haji Riaz Ahmad, a resident of suburban Peshawar.
Ahmad said he filed one such case at the local Dispute Resolution Council, which ruled in his favour.
"Thousands of families suffer because of these gangs, and they have welcomed the action by the police force against them," said Ahmad, adding that the actions against extortionists, usurers and drug dealers are equally laudable.
Going after gangs
"Police in the provincial capital have arrested more than 78 members of 25 different land mafia gangs, while the profiling of other individuals and groups is being carried out," said Peshawar Capital City Police Officer (CCP) Karim Khan.
In a second phase, police will go after the remaining gangs that are involved in occupying the land of innocent owners and extorting money from them, he said.
Actions against the drug dealers and smugglers also are in full swing, he added.
"A large number of drug smugglers and dealers, including those selling 'ice' [methamphetamine] and heroin in the vicinity of public and private sector educational institutions, have been arrested," said Karim.
The force during the past month arrested 1,059 suspects accused of selling and smuggling ice, heroin, opium and liquor, according to Mohammad Ilyas, a spokesman for the Peshawar police.
"The force recovered 12kg of heroin, 632kg of hashish, 2.5kg of ice, 22kg of opium and 138 bottles of liquor during the last 30 days," Ilyas said.
Other districts have accelerated their campaign against the mafias. Police in Mardan have arrested 116 suspects in their own effort.
"The special campaign was launched in late September, and we arrested 55 and mafia members and 61 drug dealers by October 14," said District Police Officer Mardan Sajjad Khan about the 116 suspects.
Police arrested many suspects accused of extortion and usury and are detaining them for trial after prosecutors filed cases against them, he said.
Many experts say drug usage affects the innate ability of people to differentiate right from wrong, and consequently they become very easy to manipulate and deceive.
"Identifying the reasons behind the deviation of our young generation towards unwanted activities including extremism and militancy can be helpful to effectively control the occurrence of these events," said Syed Abbas Shah, the general secretary of the Youth Anti-Terrorism Organisation (YATO).
"In some cases it was clear that anti-social elements lured youth by deceit and by offering them temporary financial gains... it is much easier to target and manipulate drug addicts owing to their weaknesses and mental disposition."
Drug trafficking has also been linked to terror financing, he said.