Traders continue to fall prey to targeted attacks in the city. In the past three days alone, three traders were murdered.
The latest victims were Shamsuddin and Naeem Qureshi. Shamsuddin was killed at his shop in Kharadar on Thursday while Qureshi was injured in an attack in Jama Cloth on Wednesday. These attacks sparked violent protests by the traders of both the areas on Thursday afternoon. Their protest seemed to have prompted the chief minister, Qaim Ali Shah, to offer early (forced) retirement for the police officers who fail to fulfill their duties. An SHO and a DSP from Kharadar were also suspended after the killing.
He announced this while talking to journalists after meeting top officials of city police at the Central Police Office (CPO). “My orders are straightforward. Anyone who doesn’t carry out his duties will be offered a premature retirement.”
According to the Karachi Traders’ Action Committee (KTAC), in the past 72 hours seven traders have been killed in Kharadar, Garden West, Sharifabad, Jama Cloth, Golimar, Liaquatabad and Shershah areas.
In fact, Siddiq Memon, the KTAC chairman, said that Shamsuddin was killed in the presence of police protection. “The Citizens-Police Liaison Committee and the police had been informed that Shamsuddin was being threatened. The police had deputed a police officer for protection,” Memon said. “But three men came to the shop on a motorcycle and opened fire. The policeman did put up a fight but was critically wounded.” The murder took place at around 11:15, about half an hour after the market opens for business.
A similar event took place in Jama Cloth on Wednesday, when another trader Naeem Qureshi was shot at, but he managed to escape. Eyewitnesses said that even though a police and a Rangers’ vehicle were present in the area, the law enforcers didn’t act or chase the assailants.
Memon said that most of the attacks seem to be taking place in the old city areas. “Not only are people being killed but at least 15 to 16 traders have also been ‘picked up’ by the extortionists.” ‘Picking up’ is a strategy which the extortionists use to instill fear in them. They pick them up and drive around for a couple of hours before dropping them off.
Shah said that he has ordered a greater presence of law enforcers. He also wanted the IG, AIG, and DIGs to be in the field and make their presence known. CPLC said that 25 businessmen have been kidnapped from the city so far this year.
The KTAC is not satisfied with the security arrangements and sees most of these efforts as futile.
One of the biggest problems, it says, is when the army chief came to Karachi and met members of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, industrialists, corps commander and the chief minister, it resulted in the deployment of 500 policemen only in the SITE area.
“The sad part is that small traders are being totally neglected,” said Memon. “The other 550 markets in Karachi pay Rs25 million in extortion money every day without deployment of any security personnel.”
He said that situation was so bad that about 20 per cent of the shops had shut down, rendering 35,000 people unemployed. “Most of these shopkeepers don’t invest their own money in businesses,” Memon said. “The investors and importers are pulling out by the day. This has caused capital worth Rs70 billion to leave the market over the last six months. According to our calculations, 175,000 people used to visit markets every day but now that number is only 35,000.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2012.
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