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Highway robbery, quite literally, has the police scrambling to ratchet up night patrols after four big hits in the last two months. Gangs are taking off with entire trailers loaded with luxury four-wheelers being transported through Sindh and Balochistan.
The trailers were hijacked on October 2 in Balochistan’s Kalat, on October 21 in Mastung and then the gangs struck on November 20 in Sindh’s Kandiaro and on November 24 in Hala.
The president of the All Pakistan Car Carrier Association, Imdad Naqvi, speculated that a single group is working the highway because each time the modus operandi was the same. They are targeting the Toyota Hilux Revos, Fortuners and Toyota Land Cruiser V8s whose starting prices are Rs7 million.
Naqvi said the gang used Vigos in all four snatchings. “The Vigo has a hooter or police lights on its roof like a police mobile to pose as law-enforcement,” he said. “They signaled the driver to stop, and when he pulled over the trailer, ten to twelve armed men in plainclothes surrounded the long vehicle and took the staff hostage at gunpoint.”
One man in the gang is an expert driving long vehicles like car carriers. The gang first offloads the driver and puts him in their Vigo so that their man can take control of the steering. “They took the long vehicles to a deserted place where they offloaded all the four-wheelers but they keep the driver and other staff hostage until the snatched four-wheelers reach their destination.” This takes a few days.
The first suspects were dacoits who roam the highway, but the Sindh police have ruled them out. “Dacoits of the Pakka area instead of the Kutcha are behind these highway snatchings,” said Anti-Vehicle Lifting Cell (AVLC) SSP Bashir Ahmed Brohi.
The Balochistan police arrested a few of the gang members and recovered some of the snatched vehicles. “The remaining members of this gang moved on to Sindh and regrouped with some locals,” he added. The police recovered one of the snatched four-wheelers in Dadu.
A top Sindh police officer said he strongly suspected that insiders were involved. The officer, who wished not to be named, told Samaa Digital that he had reason to believe this because in the last three months the car carrier operators had abandoned precautionary measures they followed, which was highly suspicious.
“Earlier the keys of the [four-wheel] vehicles loaded on car carriers were dispatched to the owners by courier,” he explained. “But now many operators are transporting the vehicles with the car key.”
Also, previously the vehicle’s battery was removed before the car was loaded onto the carrier, but some operators have started loading vehicles with the battery.
Another trick was to remove the ramp from the carriers before they departed, so if anyone wanted to even take the cars, they wouldn’t be able to get them off.
In two of the cases, the police found that the keys and battery were on the vehicles being transported and the carriers had their ramps as well.
IGP Mushtaq Mehar directed SSPs for Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur and Larkana to step up night patrols on the National and Indus highways.