LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan – Afghan journalist Rohullah Rohani says danger and threats of violence are an integral part of his job.
As a reporter for the private Khurshid TV in one of Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces, he frequently covers terrorist attacks, fighting between the Taliban and government forces, and narcotics trafficking.
But on August 1, Rohani faced a different kind of danger when he was robbed in Lashkar Gah, the dusty sprawling capital of the southern Helmand Province.
“They held a gun to my head and robbed me of my cell phone and motorcycle,” he said of the late-night mugging in a Lashkar Gah neighborhood considered safe by most of the city’s estimated 200,000 residents. “We now witness many incidents of robberies in the city every day.”
Rohani says that police need to act swiftly to end the rising crime wave. “I was robbed close to a security check post,” he noted. “The residents of this city are deeply worried over these incidents.”
Attaullah Afghan, head of the provincial council in Helmand, is urging Lashkar Gah’s residents to cooperate with the authorities so they can fight the rising crime.
“The civilians need to cooperate with the police by tipping them off about suspected criminals,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “And all police and military personnel can contribute to this struggle by remaining vigilant and trying to nab suspected criminals without worrying about the limitations of their jurisdiction and their working hours.”
Afghan says that swift punishments will ultimately bring down the current crime rates and deter others from committing crimes.
“Once arrested, the public prosecutor’s office and the courts needs to swiftly deal with criminal cases, so punishments can be handed down quickly,” he said. “Such punishment will serve as a reminder for other to prevent them from going down the same path.”
Police in the region say they are doing their best to cope with the crime wave in Lashkar Gah. Helmand police chief Hisamuddin Helmandi says they have arrested some 229 people in connection with robberies and other crimes in recent months.
He, however, says that Afghan law requires them to hand over the suspects to the local prosecutor’s office, which investigates them and moves their cases to the courts.
“The rise in crimes is partly fueled by the growing unemployment,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “The immediate reason behind the crime wave is the approaching Eid al-Adha festival.”
But the crime wave has dampened the festivities associated with Eid al-Adha or the festival of sacrifice, which is marked by the obligatory sacrifice of animals for those who can afford it.
Fear of robberies is keeping many Lashkar Gah residents from shops selling everyday provisions. Makeshift markets selling the sacrificial animals have also seen fewer customers.
Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mohammad Ilyas Dayee's reporting from Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan.