Despite tall claims of the Lahore Police, there appears to be no let-up in street crime, as incidents involving money and valuables-snatching from citizens at gunpoint have become a regular feature of the city, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Among others, the most bizarre and newest modus operandi of robbers is to rob citizens in front of automated teller machines (ATMs) – after they make a transaction or withdraw cash – as almost no police officials are present there.
Since the start of this year, a number of such cases have been witnessed in the Gulshan-e-Ravi Police Station jurisdiction alone. Several people have been robbed immediately after withdrawal of cash from ATMs in Gulshan-e-Ravi area but not a single arrest has been made till date, giving rise to speculations that the policemen were part of these robberies.
Syed Murtaza Ali, a resident of Bund Road, was robbed last Sunday, when he just stepped out of the ATM of Bank Alfalah’s Gulshan-e-Ravi branch.
He said that after he came out of the ATM after withdrawing money at around 8:00 pm, a man approached him and asked if the ATM was working or not. “Since it is a usual question that normally everyone has been put by the person visiting an ATM after them, I told him the ATM was working fine. The very moment he pulled a pistol at me, and asked me to give him the money I had just withdrawn,” Murtaza narrated his story, “I gave him the Rs 5,000, but he still took me to the ATM booth and asked me to withdraw the remaining amount as well. I was frightened as he was pointing the pistol at me, so I gave him the remaining Rs 18,000 as well.”
Murtaza, who is a photo-journalist, further said that “the robber pulled off the plug cable of his bike and warned me not to chase him”.
The same night Murtaza was robbed a case was registered under section 392 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in the Gulshan-e-Ravi Police Station, but no culprit has been arrested since.
Muhammad Javaid, another resident of Bund Road, got robbed in the same fashion on January 9 this year. He told Pakistan Today that he was coming out of Bank Al-Habib’s ATM in the jurisdiction of the Gulshan-e-Ravi Police Station when an unknown person snatched away Rs 25,000 from him at gunpoint.
Javaid however added that the police altered the section of offence in the FIR, complained that “it was a robbery, not a theft”. A copy of the FIR available with Pakistan Today details that the case was registered under section 379 of the PPC instead of 392. “It is shameful that such incidents are taking place within the one kilometer radius of the police station and I fear that the policemen are also involved in this heinous crime,” added Javaid.
It is interesting to note that the culprit in the two robberies appears to be the same person since he asked his two victims the same question: “Is the ATM working.”
When contacted, SHO for the Gulshan-e-Ravi Police Station Hussain Farooq said that he was aware of such crimes and the culprit(s) would be arrested very soon. He also defiantly claimed that eight to ten robberies of such nature was a routine matter in the precincts of any police station. SP Muhammad Iqbal was not available for comments.