Peshawar, Nov.22 : Aid workers have started withdrawing from the city of Peshawar, as armed men, especially Islamist militants and criminal gangs continue to hold the northwestern city to ransom through a spate of kidnappings.
One senior police official told The Times that there had been 124 reported cases of kidnapping this year alone.
The real number could be higher as most people do not trust the police, preferring to pay the ransom.
Militants demand up to a million pounds as ransom, and non-payment often means death for the victim.
Pakistanis are not the only ones who are at risk. Militants and criminals are seizing the small number of foreigners who live and visit here.
Last week suspected militants kidnapped Hashmatullah Atharzadeh, an Iranian diplomat, from a busy street after killing his police guard. Gunmen also shot and wounded a Japanese man and Sami Yousafzai, an Afghan journalist, after failing to kidnap them.
A few days earlier militants shot dead Stephen Vance, 52, an American aid worker, and his driver as they were heading to his office in the up market University Town neighbourhood of Peshawar.
Suspected militants are also holding two Chinese and one Polish engineer. They are demanding that the security forces release insurgent leaders. Abdul Khaliq Farahi, the Afghan Ambassador-designate, is also missing, after being kidnapped in September.
Several international aid agencies and non-governmental organisations have withdrawn staff from Peshawar, and many wealthy Pakistani families have moved to safer cities.