Child abductions: Hearsay continues to feed public anxiety
KARACHI: The power of hearsay can be gauged from the fact that despite repeated assurances from the authorities, the rumour mill vis-à-vis the ‘rampant kidnappings of kids’ has been running relentlessly in the metropolis, with almost everyone knowing someone who has seen or heard of a child’s abduction in recent days.
The air of fear has led to schools taking heightened security measures and some parents even taking their children out of school temporarily. As an expected side-effect, there has been a dangerous increase in cases of mob violence against suspected kidnappers around the city.
Amber Asim, a mother of four, fears to send her children to school near their residence in Nazimabad. “My kids walk to school as my eldest son, a ninth grader, is always with them,” said the worried mother, adding that she is now dropping and picking them up in her car after ‘hearing’ of increasing cases of children’s kidnappings.
Another worried father, Salman Anwar, whose daughter studies in class two, has started doing the pick and drop himself and has put the regular van service on hold. “A lot of parents have started doing the same for the security of their children,” he claimed.
When asked about the source of the ‘threat’, he said “I asked dozens of parents if they personally knew someone who got kidnapped but none of them had a positive answer. But who would still want to take a chance?”
Meanwhile, school administrations said attendance has not gone down as such but narrated the concerns of parents regarding the security of their children. “The attendance is the same but we have tightened security to satisfy the parents,” said the spokesperson of the Foundation Public School. He said they have posted guards for surveillance at rooftops to observe any suspicious activity.
Similarly, Happy Home School principal Farah Imam said that due to the increasing ‘news’ about the abductions, the school has increased its security to cater to the parents’ concerns.
On Thursday, Karachi police spokesperson Qamar Zaib Satti, in an official statement, denied all rumours of a spike in kidnappings, saying not a single case of child kidnapping has occurred in the city recently and that all such reports are ‘baseless’. However, in recent days, the police have registered three cases of child kidnapping and arrested several suspected kidnappers.
On Friday, Haroon, a resident of Surjani Town, was arrested while he allegedly attempted to kidnap three-year-old Sonia while she was asleep inside a hut at Shanti Town at Railway Track in Block 5, Gulshan-e-Iqbal.
According to the police, the girl’s mother started shouting when she saw the alleged kidnapper attempting to abduct her daughter. The family members managed to catch the suspect and handed him over to the police after a thrashing. However, the accused told the police he is a drug addict and was attempting to steal. On Saturday, a judicial magistrate remanded the alleged kidnapper in police custody for two days and directed the investigating officer to submit a progress report on Monday. A kidnapping case had been registered against him at Gulshan police station on the complaint of the young girl’s father, Rabnawaz.
On Thursday, a woman, Saadia Junaid, a resident of Shah Faisal Colony, was attacked by a crowd in Ziaul Haq Colony which accused her of trying to abduct three-year-old Alizah while she was playing outside her house. “I was standing at the street corner when I saw a woman trying to take my niece along with her,” said the girl’s maternal uncle, Humayun. “Thank God I saw it otherwise we would have lost her,” he claimed. The woman was later handed over to the police who are investigating the case.
Police have yet to conclude the actual nature of these so-called kidnappings. “It would be premature to say anything as investigations are at a preliminary level,” explained Gulshan SHO Safdar Mashwani.
Also in recent days, a man was caught by a mob in Ahsanabad area within the limits of SITE Superhighway police station. Jamil was accused of trying to abduct Shahbaz Adnan,5, while the boy was playing near his house. SHO Asmatullah Marwat said the accused was caught by a mob and handed over to the police, adding that the suspect had been severely beaten. Marwat said the accused seems to be a drug addict.
Similarly, a couple of days ago, the Brigade police registered a case against 35 people for beating a middle-aged mentally challenged man in Jut Line area after accusing him of being a kidnapper. The victim, Suresh Kumar, a resident of the same locality and a retired government employee, was roaming the area when some people started beating him up while accusing him of being a kidnaper.
“We will not tolerate such cases in which people start taking the law into their own hands,” said SHO Raja Tanvir. He informed that the police have arrested one of the 35 nominated persons in the case so far.
A resident of Shah Faisal Colony and a driver by profession, Yunus, claimed he witnessed some children being kidnapped around four days ago. “I was going to work early morning when I saw two young men riding a CG-125 motorcycle abduct two siblings from outside Jamia Farooqia in Block 5 of Shah Faisal Colony.” He said the victim boy and girl were around six to seven years old and going to school with their father, Abdul Sattar. “The kidnappers put a handkerchief on Sattar’s face after which he fainted. They took the kids with them before anyone could do anything,” he explained.
Yunus said Sattar lives in his neighbourhood. “The family is in a state of shock. I am hearing they are moving to another place as they are afraid. They have not disclosed any call beings made by the kidnappers,” he shared.
Shah Faisal SHO Muhammad Saleem, however, refuted the entire story. “It is a bogus claim. No such complaint was lodged with us nor has any such information been heard by anyone in the area,” he claimed.
The spokesperson of the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) said “We are receiving a number of worried phone calls inquiring if any such activities are going on in the city. They are all just rumours,” he asserted.
Sharing July’s figures, he said they received around 27 complaints of missing kids in which 21 were runaway cases while the remaining were kidnapping cases, five of which have been resolved. “These figures are normal. There is no need for alarm and no evidence to suggest there has been a rise in kidnapping cases in the city recently.”