By Zia Ur Rehman

December 17, 2013

KARACHI – Desperate to keep their networks alive as Karachi security forces continue to decimate them, Taliban militants and criminals are increasingly extorting schools and hospitals, according to officials.

Karachi police have arrested 9,944 alleged criminals, including 61 extortionists and 102 terrorists, since they launched a targeted operation September 5, according to a December 7 performance report.

But to keep financing their designs, militants and criminals are trying to extort private school owners and doctors.

Taliban militants March 30 attacked The Nation Secondary School in Ittehad Town area of Karachi, killing Principal Abdul Rasheed and a 10-year-old schoolgirl during an annual awards ceremony. Taliban militants and criminals groups are targeting schools and hospitals in Karachi over non-payment of extortion, officials say. [Zia Ur Rehman]
In response to the city’s sharp increase in attacks on schools and hospitals, the provincial government has ordered law enforcement agencies to better protect the vulnerable entities, Sharaffudin Memon, an advisor at Sindh Home Department, said. And the increased security seems to be tamping down the problems.

Such attacks, meanwhile, have drawn broad condemnation.

“Targeting innocent schoolchildren, doctors and patients reflects the brutality of the terrorists,” William Sadiq, a leader of Karachi-based Action Committee for Human Rights said, adding that the targeting schools and hospitals was a continuation of Taliban militants’ hatred of education and humanity.

“Terrorists have no regards even for the sacredness of educational institutions and hospitals,” said Karachi Pakistan Peoples Party spokesperson Latif Mughal said.

Attacks on schools and educators : 

Schools, especially those in Pashtun-populated areas, have been targeted through violence and extortion, school owners say.

Extortionists October 28 attacked the Al-Mehran School, a private school in Orangi Town, for allegedly not paying extortion money, and on October 22 targeted Prince School, another Orangi Town private school.

Militants and criminal groups also have attempted to extort at least 10 private schools in Korangi Town, Faisal Bukhari, a private school owner in Korangi, told Central Asia Online.

Money, however, is not the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) only motive in school attacks; rather, the militants are just trying to hold down future generations by depriving them of education, said Latif Khan, new principal of Naunehal Academy, which he said has received an extortion letter demanding Rs. 5,000,000 (US $46,000) and threats because the school educates girls.

Indeed, militants have bombed more than 1,000 schools in KP and FATA since 2007, according to the Pakistan Security Report 2012, an annual publication by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

Bukhari, however, said extortion cases are declining as a result of stepped-up security.

“Although it is not possible to provide all schools with security, patrols and deployment of police and Rangers have been increased outside the schools where deemed necessary,” he said.

Targeting doctors and hospitals : 

Militants and extortionists are also targeting doctors and hospitals.

TTP militants October 13 attacked a private clinic in the Muzafferabad Colony area, killing one woman and injuring six other people, including children, all of whom had come to the clinic for treatment.

The TTP attacked the clinic because it refused to pay Rs. 2m (US $18,600) in extortion, Quaidabad Police Station officer Nazar Mangrio told Central Asia Online.

Extortionists October 3 carried out a similar attack on the Khatri Clinic in the Gulistan-e-Johar area.

Fortunately, extortion is starting to decline, according to doctors’ groups.

“Law enforcement agencies have arrested several extortionists belonging to the TTP in Sohrab Goth who were threatening doctors and hospital owners,” said Dr. Saeed Shah, owner of a private hospital in Sohrab Goth, referring to an October-November targeted operation.