Rawalpindi/islamabad-Police and other law enforcement agencies have badly failed in foiling bids to smuggle snatched and stolen mobile phones to Afghanistan.

According to sources, the mobile phones blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) either on complaints of street crime victims (whose cell phones are snatched by armed dacoits on gunpoint in twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad) or on request of police investigators are being smuggled to Afghanistan where the IMEI is changed to unlock the phones.

The dacoit gangs operating in several areas of Rawalpindi and Islamabad have alleged links with Afghan smugglers and IT experts and have become untouchables, sources said.

The dacoits mostly snatch expensive iPhones from citizens and smuggle to Afghanistan where there IMEI are changed and sold in the markets on throw-away prices, they said. 

The stolen or snatched mobile phones are smuggled to Afghanistan through Torkham border where there is no proper checking of people crossing the border by the border security forces.

There is no close coordination or liaison between Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police to bust the gangs involved in smuggling of stolen mobiles to Afghanistan, sources claimed.

Resultantly, citizens of Rawalpindi and Islamabad—whose precious cell phones were snatched by dacoits on gunpoint—are running from pillar to post to get their iPhones recovered by the police despite registration of First Information Reports (FIR) with concerned police stations.  

Shehzad Farooq, a resident of Bahria Town and a pharmacist by profession, told The Nation on Wednesday that his iPhone 12 Pro Max was snatched by two gunmen at a traffic signal near Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi some eight months ago. He said he got registered FIR against snatchers with Police Station (PS) Civil Lines but police had failed in recovering his expensive cell phone so far. “I had even shared live location of my iPhone with SP Potohar and SHO but they could not arrest the accused and later the mobile phone was smuggled to Afghanistan,” he said adding that the current location of his iPhone is shown at Kandahar province by the Google map. 

Similarly, another citizen Asim Gulzar, a resident of Islamabad, told this correspondent that armed dacoits deprived him of cash and iPhone 13 in Industrial Area Zone in July 2022. He said he alerted police about the crime which lodged case against the gangsters and began investigation. He said the snatchers rushed to Shamas Colony after snatching his cell and cash as he shared with police their live location. However, the investigators of PS Industrial Zone showed sheer negligence and had not raided the said place and the snatchers managed to smuggle his cell phone to Kabul. “The last location of my iPhone 13 is Kabul, Jalalabad Highway, Afghanistan,” he said. 

He urged the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Federal Interior Minister and Inspector General of Police Islamabad to evolve a strategy to curb stolen/ snatched mobile phones smuggling to neighbour country Afghanistan.

Muhammad Bilal, an IT expert, was also the victim of mobile snatching by a gang of dacoit. Sharing his ordeal with The Nation, Bilal said two dacoits took away his iPhone 13 Pro Max form limits of PS Sihala. He said Sihala police could not recover his cell phone despite sharing live locations of snatchers who later smuggled mobile phone to Afghanistan.

Background interviews with some retired senior police officers and spies of intelligence agencies revealed that there are dozens of Afghani citizens who used to smuggle stolen smart phones from Pakistan to Afghanistan with the help of members of the dacoit gangs operating in twin cities.

But the police are not taking mobile snatching cases serious causing heavy loss to citizens, they said. They informed that lack of coordination between the federal interior minister, home ministers and police chiefs of Punjab and KP have given a free way to the dacoit gangs and the Afghan citizens involved in smuggling of stolen/ snatched mobile phones across the border. “The active network of mobile snatchers and smugglers in Punjab and capital should be busted immediately,” they said.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Islamabad Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, DIG Operations Sohail Zafar Chattha, SSP Operations Malik Jamil Zafar, City Police Officer Rawalpindi Syed Shehzad Nadim Bukhari and SSP Operations Wasim Riaz Khan did not respond to a questionnaire sent by this correspondent on their personal cell numbers asking the reason about failure of LEAs to curb the snatched/ stolen mobile cell phones to Afghanistan from twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.