KARACHI: A traders’ strike against extortion and target killings halted economic activities in Karachi on Wednesday, despite traders’ early end to the strike by evening. The strike also partially affected activity in industrial centres of Pakistan’s financial capital, owing to absence of public transport in the city.
Jameel Paracha, vice chairman of the All Karachi Tajir Itehad (AKTI), while expressing his dissatisfaction with government inaction, said: “They are apparently not concerned with why traders and small businessmen of the city are screaming.” AKTI is an association of traders which was leading the traders’ strike.
AKTI Chairman Atiq Mir on Wednesday also commented that the city suffered losses amounting to Rs3.15 billion on every day that businesses were shut down due to strikes. He criticised the government for its ‘empty promises’ and lack of motivation in finding a lasting solution. Mir further claimed that around 20 traders had been gunned down; while 15 others were abducted in different kidnapping and extortion cases in the city over the last three months.
“Even after a successful strike, backed by various important groups and political parties of the city, the government is still not concerned with the security problems of Karachi city,” Paracha complained.
Traders were not in favour of a strike, but indifference on part of the government to their problems has compelled them to opt for drastic measures, claimed Paracha.
“We are shocked at the government’s indifference. If the government does not change its attitude and act against extortionists within 72 hours, we will go on another strike,” he threatened.
A trader from old Karachi, one of the worst-affected trading areas of the city, said the government should have called traders to listen to their problems before Wednesday’s strike call. Various gangs are active in old city markets and are openly challenging the Pakistani state machinery, but no one is ready to take them on, he claimed.
A former chairman of the Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry commented that the government is not serious in dealing with the extortion problem. “If the government was serious, it would have given SIM locators to the police a long time ago.” he pointed out, “Even after commitments with industrialists, Rehman Malik has failed to provide the required equipment to police.”
Industrialists from different industrial zones said they also suffered due to the absence of 30-50% of their workforce.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.
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