Torkham Border Closure Fuels Surge in Street Crime in Peshawar

Since the Taliban assumed control in Afghanistan, the illegal smuggling of foreign cloth via the Torkham border into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s capital, Peshawar, has ceased. Prior to the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, the illegal smuggling of cloth into Peshawar through the Torkham border was a common occurrence.

With the change in Afghanistan’s government, smuggling operations have come to a halt, leading those who previously profited from smuggling to turn to street crime to compensate for their losses. According to information from the provincial police department, approximately 50 to 60 former smugglers who used to profit from illegal cloth smuggling are now involved in various street crimes within the provincial capital.

Recently, two former smugglers, apprehended by Chamkani Police in Peshawar, attempted to escape and even opened fire on the police. Zafar Khan, the Superintendent of Police for Peshawar Rural, confirmed that these individuals confessed to being involved in approximately 700 street crimes, including phone snatching, motorcycle and car theft, and murder. Khan stated, “The arrested individuals conceded that they were previously involved in the smuggling business and have now turned to street crimes to make ends meet.”

The data supports these claims, with a 30% increase in various crimes reported in the city this year. Incidents of street crime have risen from 90 per day in the previous year to 129 per day. In 2022, Peshawar recorded 296 cases of robbery, but this year, in just nine months, that number has already reached 323. Similarly, the city saw 200 cases of motorcycle theft in 2022, a number that has already been matched in the first nine months of this year.

Moreover, murder cases have increased from 327 in the previous year to 370 and are expected to rise further. An anonymous senior officer from the investigation department of Peshawar Police revealed that over 60% of those accused of street crime are Afghan nationals.

The provincial government is concerned about the involvement of illegally residing Afghans in the rising crime rates. In a recent meeting led by the Chief Minister, instructions were issued for a large-scale crackdown against illegally residing Afghans throughout the province to address this issue.

Kashif Aftab Abbasi, Senior Superintendent Police Operations, explained, “Special blockades are being established in Peshawar to control street crime, and operations are also being conducted against Afghan refugees living in the city without proper documentation. Afghans involved in crimes are arrested, detained, and eventually deported under the Foreigners Act.”

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