As chairman of the SITE Association of Industry (SAI), Mohammad Irfan Moton heads a unique committee of 12 renowned businessmen in the city. All but one of them have been robbed at least once in their lives, with some of them as many as five times.
“I am the lucky one. Somehow the criminals have spared me up till now,” said Moton with a smile, before thanking God.
The number of street crimes across Pakistan’s largest industrial estate have hit an all time high. Just as some businessmen have moved their back offices from factories in SITE the Defence Housing Authority, employees have refused to work nightshifts.
Factory workers carry a few hundred rupees in cash in bogey-wallets. They have also been advised to carry cheap cell phones, in order to minimise their losses in case bandits snatch them at gunpoint.
Moton also heeded the advice. “I used to wear a Rolex. Now I have this,” he said, pointing to Rs12,000 wristwatch.
Ahmed Shah, a garment factory worker, shared how he currently hides his meagre monthly salary of Rs8,000, after being robbed multiple times. “Some of the cash goes in the shoes, some in undergarments, and I keep Rs500 in my wallet. However, bandits know when we are paid so these incidents often turn nasty,” said Shah.
Moton says that SAI members were mostly robbed by young men riding motorcycles. “It has become so common here that people have become indifferent. They don’t even complain or lodge reports with the police,” observed Moton.
Pak Button Industries CEO Asad Nisar, who heads SAI’s law and order committee, has been robbed seven times from near his workplace.
“Security guards cannot accompany me everywhere, and keeping too many of them will only invite more trouble,” said Nisar. He was sympathetic to the plight of the regular employees though. “They are often robbed when they go out of the factories after drawing out their salaries.”
Moton believes that the poor condition of roads in SITE is partly responsible for the rising number of street crimes in the area. Every time a car or bike slows down to avoid a ditch or a pothole, passengers seem to lose their possessions to bandits, who are able to promptly overtake with them on their 125cc motorcycles. Ghani Chowrangi, Estate Avenue and the road leading to Sher Shah are notorious for such incidents.
The SITE Limited, a government entity responsible for maintaining the infrastructure in the area, laments that it does not have enough funds to carry out its job.
“We need Rs300 million for the repair work,” said chief engineer Shabbir Khokhar. “The taxes we raise are not enough and businessmen do not agree to tax increases.” Nevertheless, SITE Limited has identified 15 points where repairs would be carried out on an “urgent basis.” Funds were being gathered and the repairs would be completed by this June.
Khokhar, however, claimed that poor condition of roads had nothing to do with street crimes. ‘There are no potholes on main roads and flyovers in SITE. Why is it that robberies are so commonplace at these areas?”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.
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