Karachi in the grips of extortionists, terrorists

Published: December 22, 2010
Email

The Sindh Home Minister inspired mixed reactions after his heated statements at the KCCI.

Earlier this month Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza entered the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) building for a media briefing where a businessman handed him a ‘parchi’  from extortionists and asked the minister to take action against the people who had been threatening him if they didn’t pay the required sum.

The ‘parchi’ practice

Being a part of the business community in Karachi for several decades, I can confirm that the parchi system is normal practice in Karachi. Political parties, gangsters, ‘community associations’ and representatives of so-called philanthropic and religious organisations pay regular visits to business units around the city for weekly, monthly, or annual collections.

This does not end here. Many of our public officers from provincial and federal agencies operating for facilitations of businesses condone the practice leaving the extortionists safe from summons and legal proceedings.

Fisheries versus extortionists

In one case in August 2010, the fisheries compound in Karachi (where processing factories of seafood products are located) was targeted. Nearby gangs gave each unit a parchi of up to Rs10 million to be paid or “face the consequences”.

This resulted in a number of crimes. An exporter was abducted on his way to work and was later released after the ransom was paid. On another occasion, one exporter was robbed of Rs5 million where his stock was removed from cold storage at gunpoint while criminals took the guards and workers hostage in his factory.

After the seafood industry approached Mirza to take action and the premises was provided 24 hour protection with two police mobiles stationed near the compound. However, the mobile security was gone within a week. The exporters eventually decided to arrange for private security for the harbour.

Similar cases have been reported from around the city – especially industrial areas – as the majority of extortionists are from poor and illegally occupied localities nearby. For now the demands for extortion have been reduced or are being carried out in a more covert fashion.

Mirza’s fiery retaliation

In order to understand Mirza’s outburst at KCCI, one must consider the performance of his ministry since he was made responsible for maintaining law and order in the province:

Crime Reported during the period from 01-01-2010 to 30-09-2010

Crime Reported during the period from 01-01-2009 to 31-12-2009

Crime Reported during the period from 01-01-2008 to 31-12-2008

The data above is not cause for pride or glory for any Pakistani, especially if it concerns the city that contributes to around 70 per cent of the total revenue for the whole country.

I am still confused about Mirza’s speech and his selective approach. When the businessmen at the session complained about the security situation and highlighted the shortcomings of his department why did he lash out at the MQM?

Everyone attending was stunned to hear his words since his speech presented nothing conclusive with regard to the matter.

Mirza’s words would have held value if he had disclosed the names of the culprits responsible for the Shershah market killings that took place due to the non-payment of extortion money. Instead of discussing who was responsible, he chose to say that the incidents were a result of ethnic differences and that the alleged oppressor (MQM) was counter-attacked in retaliation only because the citizens murdered in Shershah were from an Urdu speaking community.

He claimed that he begged the Governor of Sindh Ishratul Ebad to prevent target killings in case other ethnicities adopt similar techniques .

From the 60 target killers that have been put behind bars, Mirza claims that 26 are from MQM, some from ANP and a few from Haqiqi and Sunni Tehreek. If these people are really target killers then where are their charge-sheets and why haven’t they been handed over to the courts?

Despite overseeing the arrest of hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives Mirza continues to accuse Karachi-based political groups for the killings. But citizens of the city know better. Karachi is a hot-bed for terrorism and it is no longer a hidden fact that that violence is being stirred by a third force.

syed.ali

Syed Ali Raza Abidi

A businessman who writes on politics and civic issues. He completed his masters in business administration from Boston University. He tweets @abidifactor.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.