Published in Pak Tea House on Oct. 22, 2011

A few days ago, I had gone to the bank to make a personal transaction. I had parked my car a few feet away from the steps heading towards the main door of the bank. All of a sudden, from the corner of the bank building, a woman (who seemed to be in her forties) and a late-teenage girl appeared out of nowhere. The woman did not seem to look like she was from Pakistan, possibly a foreigner and the girl relatively resembling the Pakistani heritage. Both were clad in crisp-clean shalwar kameezes and had drapped their heads with their duppattas.

The older woman, very frantically had stopped me, waiving her hand and hurriedly rushing towards me with the girl right behind her. She said to me “Madame! Madame! Please read this!” She handed me a ratty old note, in which you could even see the crease lines of the folded note tearing. In very opulent and neatly written Urdu, it was asking for help, for charity and to be precise money.

I quickly skimmed the note and while returning it to her I said “This is asking for charity, help.” She looked with a grim face and said in a strong foreign/broken-English accent “Yes, yes. My husband is out of a job and we need money to pay the rent by tomorrow or we will have no home. Can you help us? Can you give us money please?” I was very much taken aback. I quickly tried to make a quick break for it towards the side of the building; she blocked my way and asked me again. I said “I’m sorry I can’t help you.” She wouldn’t let me pass and said “How much do can you give?” I repeated my answer again and she blocked me again repeating the same question with an added “How much do you have?” I very adamantly said “I’m sorry I CAN NOT help you!” The two men walking towards us seemed to have intimidated her. The guard who was outside the building seemed a little startled by slight outburst which made him vigilant and a little more alert. She quickly took a step back and gave a disappointed little shrug and quietly said “Okay.”

This lady was trying to bully me into giving her money, using a bold yet submissive tactics that wouldn’t be too obvious to the public. This way not many people could tell she as trying to rob me.

As being a resident of Karachi, one would think the due to the precarious safety situation of the city, this is something that happens regularly, however it doesn’t. There have been several incidents that have happened very much like this to many other people all over the country. Unfortunately, not all of them have been as lucky as me.

Amir Khan, national correspondent The Education Watch Pakistan (National Weekly) Islamabad, experienced something like this when he withdrew money from an ATM at the G-11 Markaz on his way to a meeting. Unaware that he was being followed, after attending the meeting on his way to the supermarket, a car a couple of men in white corolla called out to him and he approached them. They were posing to be newly arrived UAE residents who were looking for an Arabic bank which they couldn’t find it for money conversion. Mr. Khan told him them he wasn’t aware of the bank and told them to go to a money exchange. They asked him to show Pakistani currency so they wouldn’t get cheated. He took out a few notes to show them and they kept insisting that he keep showing bigger value notes to the extent that he ended up showing them all the money he had withdrawn. After they returned the money, much later when he recounted the money turned out, Rs.10, 000 was missing from the total amount of Rs. 25,000. When Mr. Khan reported this incident to the police they told him that there is a local gang possibly impersonating foreigners that is going around Islamabad robbing people. This gang consists of a young man, another man in his mid-thirties and a younger woman who wore a veil. They speak in a half-broken Arabic-English accent.

After some research, Mr. Khan managed to find out quite a bit of information about this gang. There is a large network of these robbers in the major cities of the country. One of their major residences is in Lahore were they have preoccupied a hotel in which they reside. Normally, a female is used as a front person to make a move on the perspective victim. They mainly stalk and follow from certain ATMs and banks that are isolated. About 50% of the taxi drivers that Mr. Khan had gotten a hold of knew this gang, since they had dropped them. One of the taxi drivers’s even mentioned to Mr. Khan that he had dropped the female (who was apart of the Islamabad network) to Taxila University. Rent-a-car dealers told him that these people some times rent a car that is brand-new or old. Their main preference in the brand of cars is either Toyota or Corolla.

Mr. Khan and I are not the only ones that have encountered this mafia like network.
These “foreign” robbers have been terrorizing various cities of the country for the past 10 years.

Make sure when you do go to ATMs and Banks, that they are not isolated, try to be extra vigilant and that you are not being followed. Hopefully, there will be a sense of safety and security for a start once this gang is caught.