KARACHI: The Cantonment Board Karachi (CBK) seems to have succumbed to the tactics of the parking mafia in Karachi's Saddar area - despite the Supreme Court's order and CBK's repeated notifications and letters sent to the police not to charge parking fees within their jurisdictions, parking mafias continue to thrive in some parts of the city.
An example of this failure on the part of CBK is outside Atrium Mall near Zainab Market. Around three to four charged parking collectors collect Rs50 from car owners and Rs30 from motorcycle owners to let them park on the streets outside the mall. This practice also prevails outside the Karachi Press Club.
A resident of Saddar, Nabil Ismail, told The Express Tribune that despite knowing that they are being illegally charged for parking their cars, they have to pay the fee. "They [charged parking collectors] threaten to damage our cars if we don't pay them," he said, adding that most of the time, families avoid indulging in any argument with the collectors and just pay them the amount.
A shopkeeper, Irfan, said that everywhere in Saddar and around Zainab Market, the parking mafia has established their authority. "In one day, I have to pay around Rs200 to the parking mafia," he said, adding that he has to pay the parking fee in every other street where he parks his car.
The charged parking collectors hand out receipts of Rs50 and Rs30. However, these receipts do not bear a CBK label on it. According to one of the charged parking collectors outside Atrium Mall, who named himself Ibraar, they are deployed in different places of Saddar by their contractors, who has proper arrangements with the traffic police, the Sindh police and the CBK. According to him, the contractors pay bribes to the authorities to let them carry on with their illegal business. He told The Express Tribune that the police held them several times for illegally charging the parking fee, but their contractors got them released.
When the section head of Abdullah Haroon traffic section, sub-inspector Mushtaq, was contacted over the matter, he denied having knowledge of any kind of charged parking in his jurisdiction. On a question regarding the 'extortion', he responded that they didn't need that. He added that whenever they find anyone collecting parking fee, they hand her/him over to the police.
Meanwhile, CBK spokesperson Noman said that after the apex court's orders, they had done away with parking fee in their jurisdiction about six months ago. "We will restart collecting fee in a month or two after fresh tender," he said, adding that until the tenders are issued, it is illegal to collect the parking fee. Admitting that the parking mafia is active in Saddar, Noman said that the police and the traffic police were involved in the crime.
On the other hand, an official of the CBK's vigilance team for parking, Naimatullah, said that they had already dispatched letters to all law enforcement agencies regarding cancellation of parking fee in the area and had also put up banners to inform public about it. He said that they had handed over illegal charged parking collectors to the police and filed FIRs against them.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2016.