Scammers rob Rs5.6 billion in online investment fraud in Pakistan’s northwest

This photograph taken on November 19, 2015 shows Pakistani employees of online marketplace company at work in Karachi. (AFP)
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Updated 24 December 2020

Scammers rob Rs5.6 billion in online investment fraud in Pakistan’s northwest

  • PSlash opened an office in Peshawar in January promising profits of up to 13 percent on investments in real estate and digital and foreign currency
  • On its last day of operation on November 19, the firm had 105,000 investors, on November 20 a notification on the website read “System is hacked“

PESHAWAR: More than a 100,000 people in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province are believed to have been scammed out of Rs.5.6 billion by an online investment company that investigators failed to crack down on despite early reports of fraud, officials, lawyers and victims of the crime have said.
The company, PSlash, opened an office in Peshawar’s Deans Trade Center in January this year, promising profits of up to 13 percent on investments in real estate and digital and foreign currency. On its last day of operation on November 19, the firm had 105,000 registered investors, a former employee told Arab News.
But on November 20, a notification appeared on the website: “System is hacked.” Since then, victims of the scam say they are unable to reach any of the people who had said they were employed with the company. Many have lost their entire lifesavings.
The loss could have been avoided, lawyers and victims of the fraud say, if investigators and regulators had reacted in time. Indeed, reports of problems with the company were filed months before the company shuttered in November.
Jamal Afridi, an attorney for Yaseen Ullah, one victim of the scam, said he first filed a fraud report with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on August 24 and another one with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on September 16, saying the agencies “were sleeping when we were knocking at their doors.”
“On behalf of Yaseen Ullah, I met high officials and submitted written complaints to PTA, FIA and police about the suspected fraud company PSlash but no one took it seriously,” the Supreme Court advocate told Arab News.
“If the concerned departments had taken action accordingly, this billions of rupee scam would not have happened in Peshawar,” he added. “Now the government should investigate this issue and punish the concerned officers ... because of their negligence thousands of people lost money.”
Asad Khan, a provincial officer at the FIA, admitted that the online fraud was worth “billions of rupees” but declined to comment when asked why investigators had not acted earlier, despite reports of fraud.
“Right now, we are not in a position to disclose the initial progress [in the case],” he said.
PTA spokesman Khurram Mehrab told Arab News that the regulator started investigating PSlash after receiving a complaint in September, but declined to give more details.
“After receiving the compliant, we started an investigation into this online fraud,” he said. “There are thousands of websites, and until there is a complaint, PTA can’t monitor each and every one.”
It is unclear to date who the owner of PSlash was, but one police report filed in Peshawar names a Rabia Batool. However, neither investors nor former employees of the company that Arab News spoke with have ever met Batool.
Victims said they were in touch with two men called Wasim Zeb and Nabeel Khan who presented themselves as local executives of the company.
“I only knew the local executives and they would tell us that PSlash is a worldwide [company] investing in forex, digital currency and real estate trade,” a former employee told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
He said the company had changed its name three times, from Earn Bitcoin to Payslash and finally to PSlash. When investors questioned its credibility, agents and managerial staff would tell them that it was registered with the Company Security Exchange of Pakistan (CSEP).
A database of companies on CSEP’s website does not include the name of PSlash.
For now, there is no respite for victims of the fraud, many of whom are poor laborers who invested their entire life savings in the scheme.
Muhammad Noor, a daily wage earner, said a friend advised him to borrow money from relatives to invest in PSlash and make a quick profit. He invested Rs2.5 million ($15,625).
“Now I am under an unbearable burden,” he said. “I have already sold my wife’s jewelry.”
Construction contractor Abid Afridi invested Rs500,000 ($3,125) and received one interest payment of Rs10,000 ($62.5) — but only in the first month after the investment.
“It’s very unfortunate and shocking for me and my family that we have lost our savings,” he said. “I am unaware of the legal process and no one knows what to do now.”
Abdur Rehman, who invested Rs1.5 million ($9,375) in the business, said he and several other investors had paid the money to PSlash in person and in cash.
In November, Rehman said, a few of the investors had managed to trace Zeb, the alleged company employee, who had promised to recover their lost funds.
“I am with you and will recover your money soon,” Rehman said, quoting Zeb from the meeting. “But he has since disappeared into thin air.”


Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin gold win at Commonwealth Games

Updated 08 August 2022

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin gold win at Commonwealth Games

  • Nadeem’s throw of 90.18m was the biggest at the Games by a South Asian athlete
  • The 25-year-old beat world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took silver 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis celebrated on Monday the historic win of javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem as he nabbed the sport’s top medal at the Commonwealth Games and became the first from the South Asian country to achieve the feat.

Nadeem snatched the title in a fifth-round throw of 90.18 meters, breaking a new record at the Games where he now holds the title of the biggest throw recorded by a South Asian athlete.

The 25-year-old beat world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took silver on Sunday evening with a throw of 88.64 meters while Kenya’s Julius Yego took the bronze with an 85.70m throw.

Nadeem’s victory reverberated throughout Pakistan on Monday, as people took to social media to congratulate the athlete and celebrate his win.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Nadeem’s gold win was “amazing news” that brought pride to the country.

“Arshad Nadeem has done Pakistan proud,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “His consistency, passion, & hard work hold lessons for our youth. Congratulations Arshad on your brilliant achievement."

Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said Nadeem had given an exceptional performance and was the “pride of the nation and our national hero.”

Nadeem, a poor boy from smalltown Khanewal had beaten all odds to become the first Pakistani in history to win javelin gold at the Commonwealth Games. He is one of nine children of a daily wage laborer and had shown great versatility as an athlete from a young age while dabbling in all kinds of sports at school, from cricket to football and badminton.
Though the family lacked financial means to encourage Nadeem’s enthusiasm for sports, the boy’s spirit earned him the support he needed, with his elder brothers working to help him build a career in sports, the family told Arab News in an interview last year. 

Nadeem caught the eye of Rasheed Ahmad Saqi when he was only 12 years old, who eventually became Nadeem’s first coach and mentor and trained him for javelin throw.

Nadeem won his first bronze medal representing Pakistan at the 2016 South Asian Games in India with a best throw of 78.33 meters. In 2019, at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal, he won a gold medal with an 86.29 meters games record throw.

Pakistan cricket team captain Babar Azam took to Twitter to tell Nadeem “you made the nation proud.”

Pakistani musician Zuliqar Khan said Nadeem’s story is “a story of a champion.”

“A champion from Pakistan. I don’t remember a better example of perseverance in Pakistan sports.”

 

 

The president's office also conveyed congratulations.

 

 


In high-level military shuffle, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed moved from Peshawar to Bahawalpur Corps

Updated 57 min 12 sec ago

In high-level military shuffle, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed moved from Peshawar to Bahawalpur Corps

  • Gen Hameed was posted last year as corps commander in Pakistan's northwest
  • Before that, Gen Hameed served as head of ISI, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army said on Monday it was posting Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, the current Corps Commander Peshawar, to head the Corps in Bahawalpur.

Gen Hameed is widely considered close to ex-premier Imran Khan prime minister and was the head of the ISI, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, before he was moved to Peshawar last year.

“Lieutenant General Sardar Hassan Azhar Hayat posted as Commander Peshawar Corps,” the army’s media wing said. “Lieutenant General Faiz hamid posted as Commander Bahawalpur Corps.”

The Peshawar, or XI, Corps, is the only corps assigned in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and is currently stationed in the provincial capital of Peshawar. The Corps was established and quickly raised in 1975 to support administrative military operational units in the country's northwest bordering Afghanistan. The corps is widely known for its involvement in the Soviet–Afghan War.

After the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001 and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan, the XI Corps became the main Pakistani formation involved in fighting in the country's tribal regions in the country's northwest. It also commands substantial forces of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

Gen Hameed's posting from Peshawar comes less than a week after the US carried out a drone strike in neighbouring Afghanistan, killing al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone missile while he stood on a balcony at his home in Kabul. The strike has raised questions about whether Pakistan’s airspace was used and if the government or military were involved.

Last week, former director-general of the ISPR Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor was appointed corps Commander Quetta after the serving commander died in a helicopter crash.

The army is arguably the most influential institution in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 75-year history since independence from Britain and enjoying extensive powers even under civilian administrations.


Ex-PM Khan to announce ‘future strategy’ at Rawalpindi rally on eve of Independence Day

Updated 08 August 2022

Ex-PM Khan to announce ‘future strategy’ at Rawalpindi rally on eve of Independence Day

  • Khan was ousted as PM in April in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence and has since been calling for early elections
  • Khan has held a rally before on August 14, the 2014 Azadi Movement that lasted from August 14 to December 17

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party of ex-premier Imran Khan has decided to hold a public gathering at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on August 13 at which the party chief would announce his “future strategy,” a senior leader said. 
Pakistanis celebrates 14 August each year to commemorate the day when Pakistan achieved independence and was declared a sovereign state following the end of the British Raj in 1947. 
Khan was ousted as PM in April in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence and has since been calling for early elections.
On Monday, PTI leader and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Multan Khan would stage a rally in Rawalpindi.
“On 13 August, we are arranging a rally to seek haqeeqi azadi (real independence) in Rawalpindi,” the PTI leader said. “In that Imran Khan will announce his future strategy.”
The PTI has held a rally before on August 14, the 2014 Azadi Movement that lasted from August 14 to December 17. The march was held in opposition to then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif over claims of systematic election-rigging by his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party in the 2013 general election.
 


In a first, authorities arrange jirga to mull environmental protection in northwest Pakistan

Updated 56 min 1 sec ago

In a first, authorities arrange jirga to mull environmental protection in northwest Pakistan

  • Officials in the country’s northern areas say domestic tourists throw plastic bottles at major destinations
  • The government also plans to improve road infrastructure in the region to make tourist resorts more accessible

KHAPLU: For the first time in the history of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region, the government arranged a grand jirga at a popular tourist destination, Fairy Meadows, to create environmental awareness among the local population over the weekend.

A lush green plateau located at the western edge of the Himalayas, Fairy Meadows is counted among the most picturesque tourist resorts in northern Pakistan that is located in Diamer district and offers the best northside view of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth tallest mountain.

“Fairy Meadows was only visited by foreign climbers and trekkers in the past who used to protect the environment,” Yasir Hussain, deputy director at the Gilgit-Baltistan tourism department, told Arab News on Sunday. “For the last few years, however, this place has also become popular with domestic tourists … [who] don’t normally take care of the environment like foreigners.”

“The jirga system is very strong in Diamer district,” he continued. “So, the gathering was arranged by the government to take people into confidence [regarding] plans and policies to protect the environment.”

He noted that much of the land was state-owned in Gilgit-Baltistan, though this was not the case in Diamer district where local residents owned private properties.

“Without taking the people or community into confidence,” he added, “the government cannot make any policy.”

Speaking to Arab News, Fiaz Ahmed, the deputy commissioner of Diamer district, said the government wanted to improve the infrastructure of tourist destinations in Gilgit-Baltistan. He informed that a high-level committee had been constituted by the region’s chief minister to maintain the beauty of Fairy Meadows.

“To promote ecotourism in the region, waste management and disposal are our first priority,” Ahmed said.

Asked about the issues raised during the jirga, he said that they ranged from plantation and protection of forests to provision of water and electricity to tourists.

Apart from that, the jirga also discussed the possibility of improving the road leading to Fairy Meadows.

A senior official of Gilgit-Baltistan’s environmental protection authority, Khadim Hussain, informed the jirga took place after a German mountaineer and photographer did a social media post wherein he raised concern about unplanned tourist activities in the region.

“There is no big issue of sanitation and solid waste management in the main area of Fairy Meadows,” he said. “However, there is usually a lot of waste on treks where people throw plastic bottles etc.”


Investigation team set up to probe 'propaganda' campaign against army following chopper crash

Updated 08 August 2022

Investigation team set up to probe 'propaganda' campaign against army following chopper crash

  • Military helicopter carrying senior commander and five others crashed during a flood relief operation last week, all onboard killed
  • Social media campaign targeted deceased officers, including top commander in Balochistan, hashtags launched against army

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Monday an online smear campaign against the military and its officers in the wake of an army helicopter crash would be investigated, as a team was set up by the government to probe the “negative propaganda.”

A Pakistani military helicopter carrying a senior commander and five others crashed on a mountain during a flood relief operation last Monday and all onboard were killed. Following the incident, an online smear campaign targeted the deceased officers and included hashtags against the military.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called the campaign “horrifying” and said it reflected that the minds of young Pakistanis were being poisoned. The army’s media wing also rejected the “regretful” social media trends, saying they had caused anguish among the families of those who had died as well as in the army as an institution.

On Sunday, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said it was forming a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the smear campaign.

“A joint inquiry team has been formed to investigate the issue of negative propaganda campaign on social media after the Pakistan Army helicopter crash,” the notification said.

Members of the team include Additional Director General Cyber Crime Muhammad Jafar, Director Cybercrime Waqaruddin Syed, Additional Director Ayaz Khan and Assistant Director Imran Haider

Speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Sanaullah said the nation had “rejected” the propaganda against the victims of the helicopter crash.

“There is no segment of society which shares these sentiments,” the minister said.

Speaking to Geo News last week, ISPR Director-General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said the entire armed forces were “distressed” since the helicopter accident.

“The propaganda has caused immense pain, particularly to the families of the martyrs,” he said, urging the nation to unite against those spreading negative propaganda and rumors.

“Insensitive behavior is unacceptable and should be condemned on every platform.”