LAHORE: The relaxed lockdown has not been particularly relaxing for those in business. Not only most businesses are closed, the ones open are being harassed by authorities who were meant to protect them.
Annoyed by the constant demand of payoffs by the police in exchange for uninterrupted business, the traders in various shopping areas were up for resistance.
Several cases were witnessed on Friday in several markets including Township Market, Main Bazaar and Ghazi Road commercial area where businessmen refused to give bribe to the police officials.
Sources revealed that police teams have allocated scores of market shops per official to receive illegal incentives for allowing them to remain open.
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Amid lockdown, pandemic and economic insecurities stifling their lives, the businessmen of Ghazi Road Market decided to catch the police officials red handed. They planned to note down the serial numbers of the money notes if they were ever forced to pay up under pressure.
A day ago, in Factory Area police precincts four police officials were caught and humiliated by business owners for collecting bribe from the shops on a daily basis. The aforementioned police party was found entering ‘Ghazi Marble’ when the owner was paying a visit to instruct the watchman about the closed shop. He was threatened of being taken under police custody despite lack of offence on his part.
The police officials then offered him to keep his business open regardless of the lockdown if he paid Rs5,000 to them, asserting that no one would come to close it down.
Right at the time when they were bagging the bribe, other traders surrounded the corrupt police officials and asked them to call their Station House Officer (SHO). The people of nearby locale also started surrounding them.
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A citizen suggested to tie them with an electric pole and colour their faces black so that they could be shamed for receiving bribe in Ramazan especially when the economy of Pakistan has been ruined by the novel coronavirus.
Some people even proposed to thrash the guilty officers for their misconduct.
To the luck of police officers, the president of the traders union forbade them from any such move while another policeman who came to the rescue of the guilty police party was sent away from the conflict site.
One of the guilty cops then threw the bribe into a manhole to cover up their crime, but a trader saw him doing that and informed other business owners who found the given money inside it.
After a long debate, the SHO appeared at the venue and informed the deputy superintendent of the police (DSP) about the incident.
The DSP then assured Ghazi Road Qaumi Tajar Ittehad President Haji Adalat that the action would be taken against the caught officials, sources said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune Haji Adalat said they will file a complaint to the concerned police and pursue the application to make it a test case.
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“Police officials should be ashamed of what they are doing in these days when the traders and common men are upset due to the financial and health crises.”
Factory Area Police SHO Mian Liaquat told The Express Tribune that a complaint was received about a bribing incident but no application has been received so far.
He assured the traders that the department would conduct an inquiry and proceed in accordance with law if the application is submitted before him.
DSP Township Yaqoob Awan stated a completely different narrative. He said the argument between traders and cops ensued when the latter approached them for closing their shops to implement the government imposed lockdown. He did not confirm an incidence of bribe-taking by police in Ghazi Road Market.
In another incident, fiery arguments were exchanged between police officials and traders in Township bazaar when Trader Muhammad Shafqat resisted the cops over repeatedly demanding bribe.
The businessmen have demanded the government to take appropriate measures to stop corrupt officers from increasing their miseries.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2020.