Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that he will request all political parties in Sindh, especially in Karachi, to stop collecting Zakat, Fitra and sacrificial animal skins on Eid in an attempt to root out the ‘bhatta mafia’ (extortion groups).
“It is not the political parties’ job to knock on doors and distribute slips for Fitrana or to ask people to give them the hides of sacrificial animals,” he told media personnel, after a meeting with Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) representatives on Saturday.
“There is a dire need to enact laws to stop the collection of Zakat, Fitra and animal skins in Karachi,” he said. “I will take this matter to parliament and ask all political parties to stop these activities because the extortion groups gain inspiration from it.”
Malik said that during the investigation of these groups in the last week, law enforcement agencies discovered that many criminal gangs actually began their activities from collecting the skins of sacrificial animals on Eid. Later, these small groups started using the names of political parties and continued their criminal activities in major cities in Sindh. He said that the government would issue a telephone number which people can call to lodge their complaints against people forcing them to give Fitrana and hides of the animals.
He added that banned religious parties, such as the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), also collect animal skins throughout the country and the profit from them helps to encourage illegal activities. The JuD is not technically banned by the government of Pakistan but is on a list of groups sanctioned by the United Nations. Last Eid, the JuD advertised openly under its new name - the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation - and asked for sacrificial animal skins and donations.
Of search operations and flags
Malik also spoke about the search operations against Karachi’s criminals, saying that the police and Rangers will crackdown on criminal gangs without targeting any particular political party. Police and Rangers will enter Lyari if criminal sanctuaries are reported there, without worrying about whether the area is a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stronghold.
He said that many criminals had taken the cover of political parties by encroaching important public and private properties. “These people have hoisted party flags on the buildings, plots and even on parks. We have decided to remove these flags.” He issued a 48-hour deadline for this.
Malik said that around two dozen suspects had been arrested from Haji Ilyas Goth near Liaquatabad. Police and law enforcement agencies have started interrogating the suspects. Meanwhile law enforcers must be careful whom they arrest because they will be punished if they arrest innocent people.
“The president and prime minister have given me the task to bring peace to Karachi. I will achieve it, but cannot give a deadline.”
Malik commented that he is constant touch with law enforcement agencies regarding the kidnapping of Shahbaz Taseer, the son of the late Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. “I think the Punjab chief minister will do his best in this case (to recover Taseer).”
Manzoor Wassan’s dreams
On the other hand, Sindh Home Manzoor Wassan still believes that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will rejoin the Sindh government and that the situation in Karachi is only getting in the way of their move back to the treasury benches.
“We want to bring peace to not only Lyari but the whole city,” he said. “It would be premature to disclose where we will start the operation, because it will create hindrances and suspects will manage to escape.”
He claims that the authorities have a lead as to where these people are hiding and will act on it soon.The home minister also believes that the situation has improved since August 23.
“It’s time we delivered results, matters have gone beyond dreams because we have to prove results now,” he said.
According to Wassan, around 378 suspects have been arrested in the search operations and 140 weapons have been recovered from them, including two AK-47s and a light machine gun.
With additional reporting by Farhan Zaheer
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.