Markets in Karachi will be closed today following the announcement of a strike by All Karachi Traders Association.
Most of the city’s major markets will remain closed, said Atiq Mir, the chairman of the association. Arambagh, Bolton, Empress and electronic markets, parts of Tariq Road, Liaquatabad market and Shershah and others, including jewellers and wholesale medicine markets, will also be closed.
The traders decided to go on a token strike after the murder of yet another trader, Qarar Ali, who was a well-known trader of Shershah’s scrap market. Qarrar was shot dead, and his brother,Zakir Ali, was injured, inside their shop-cum-godown on Tuesday afternoon. Ali was killed after he refused to pay extortion. However, West Zone DIG Naeem Borkha told The Express Tribune that the police did not yet have any evidence that the murder was about extortion. “There are complaints of extortion in Shershah market but not every case can be related to them,” DIG Borkha said. But he suspended the Jahanabad police post in charge and six other policemen for not responding to the matter in time.
Shortly after 1 pm two armed men on a motorcycle came to Ali’s store which is at a short distance away from the Jahanabad police post. Eyewitnesses said that one of the assailants shot at the men and fled. They were taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where Zakir, the younger brother, is still under treatment. Both men are brothers of former MPA Shakir Ali, who is affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and is now a member of the central election cell of the party.
There are around 4,500 shops and godowns in the Shershah scrap market. Receiving extortion slips and threats by is a matter of routine for the traders. Recently, the traders have been under immense pressure from the extortionists. According to Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, 26 traders have been murdered and 25 kidnapped just this year.
However, many cases of extortion are not even reported to the police for fear of reprisals. The traders prefer to report the cases to their associations and the matter is dealt with internally. The CPLC’s records show that 147 cases of extortion were reported this year, with the highest number, 38, of cases reported at their head office. Around 34 cases were reported in the East Zone branch, 24 in South, 21 in Central, 16 in West and 14 were reported in Malir.
The MQM too, endorsed the strike call. Scores of people, including MQM leader Wasay Jalil and members of the MQM coordination committee, also came to the hospital. The people shouted slogans against the Lyari gangsters. The MQM chief, Altaf Hussain, expressed his condolences at Qarar’s murder. The party’s coordination committee also warned that if action was not taken against the extortionists, the public, workers and traders could lose their patience with the situation. It also alleged that the rise in extortion, murder and kidnapping cases prove that the operation against criminals and terrorists was an eyewash and they still had the patronage of saboteurs.
Law and order situation in many areas of the city became tensed after the murder. Besides Shershah, shops also closed in Jahanabad, Pak Colony, SITE, Nazimabad and Gulberg.
Later in the day, the police nabbed seven alleged extortionists from different parts of the city. Three men, Bilal Arshad, Danish Mehdi and Zeeshan were arrested from near NIPA Chowrangi.
A repeater and a 9 mm pistol were also found from them. SHO Shahzada Saleem said that they had demanded Rs10, 000 from an internet café in the area. Four others, Sher Alam, Kamal, Arfatullah and Rahim were caught from near New Sabzi Mandi on Super Highway, when the men arrived to collect extortion from a trader.
Meanwhile, the Karachi Traders Action Committee has said that it will not support the strike.
“We are not going to support this strike and cause massive losses because there are other ways to protest against extortion,” said Siddiq Memon. He said that some markets which come under his organisation’s umbrella, at Tariq Road, Clifton and Hyderi, will remain open. He also said that other traders’ committees ask them to close markets because they face tremendous political pressure. Otherwise they wouldn’t bear such heavy losses.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.