Ahmed Farooq, a resident of Rahim Yar Khan stepped down from a bus at Niazi Bus Stand. He had travelled 600 kilometers to appear in an exam conducted by Punjab Public Service Commission. He saw some people fighting with each other and intervened to stop them.
After the fight ended Farooq found that his wallet and cell phone had gone missing. His wallet contained Rs10,000 rupees, his National Identity Card (CNIC) and ATM card. He soon realised that the fight had been staged by pick pockets — a regular occurrence at the bus stand.
On reaching the police station Farooq was treated badly and the Moharrar did not lodge his FIR asking him to bring a witness. Since he had lost his wallet, offering a bribe was also not possible. He could also not appear in the PPSC exam either without his CNIC.
This shows how organised pick pockets have become and the trouble it creates for the victims. But it is not taken seriously by the police who are blamed for backing the pick pockets. Most incidents take place at bus stands, railway station, shrines, bazaars and other crowded places. The pick pockets use different tricks to inveigle people.
Rizwan* a pick pocket and his trainee Faheem* tell TNS that areas for pick pocketing are divided and they do not operate outside their areas “We identify our target when he touches his pocket again and again. This shows he is carrying money,” says Rizwan.
As passengers rush to get off the bus one pick pocket stands in the middle of the bus door and the other behind the target. In this chaos, pushing and shoving they use a blade to cut the pocket.
“Pehalwan is the most influential person of our world. After pick pocketing, we submit money including mobiles phones and other costly things to him. He protects us from police and gives money to rescue us at difficult times,” he says. Pehalwan is like a father for them and they are nothing without him. He also has strong relations with MPAs, MNAs and the police.
Faheem, a trainee says with pride that he has to pluck the petals of rose placed in water container without creating waves. “I am not perfect at the moment but one day I will become expert.”
Another technique Rizwan uses is building confidence with a passenger by leaving his own things with him. Eventually the outsider also leaves his things with Rizwan and disappears with the passenger’s belongings before he returns.
Most victims do not call the police or lodge an FIR because they belong to a different city. It is very difficult for them to do follow up on the case. Gulab Irshad, Manager Auqaf Data Darbar, further explains that most pick pockets are children and drug addicts. If a pick pocket is child and he weeps, the victim does not hand over the child to the police.
He says if the pick pocket is a drug addict, the police gets into trouble. “When we catch them they injure themselves with the help of blades concealed in their ears, mouth or sleeves. Sometime they cut their throat also. In court they claim that they were tortured by police men to make them confess the crime,” the Auqaf manager says.
Ahmed Adnan Sultan, SHO Thana Darbar, says the incidents of pick pockets are quite common as the place is overcrowded. He says, “we have lodged 11 FIRs against pick pockets on different complaints in one year. It is alarming that most pick pockets are 7-9 years old.” He does not explain why the number of FIR is so low if crime is too common.
Denying charges that police protects pick pockets giving the example of Imam Masjid Muhammad Imran from Pattoki whose mobile was pick pocketed at the Darbar. The police caught a suspect Liaqat Ali Dogar on the spot and called the police. An FIR no 18729 was immediately registered under instantly under 275/14 PPC and the suspect was arrested at once. He confessed to having committed the crime.
Pick pocketing falls under article 379 PPC which is also applied in cases of theft. If the crime is proved, the culprit can be imprisoned for three years.