Extortion in Karachi: MQM threatens boycott as govt not serious about crisis

Published: March 16, 2012
15 complaints lodged at cell in four days but traders say no action taken yet.

15 complaints lodged at cell in four days but traders say no action taken yet.

15 complaints lodged at cell in four days but traders say no action taken yet. In this file photo from October 20, Saddar’s usually busy electronics market is deserted during a strike. This crisis was preceded by many in reaction to extortion. PHOTO: FILE

Karachi is fed up of being held for ransom to extortionists. Matters came to a head on Thursday with the government’s key coalition partner threatening to boycott the president’s Saturday address to parliament. Businessmen are so fed up of the inefficiency of the police and Sindh government that they have begged the head of an intelligence agency to step in.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) made itself heard loud and clear with its legislator Haider Abbas Rizvi saying that they would boycott the president’s address if something is not done. President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to address the joint session at the beginning of the new parliamentary year.

The MQM’s announcement came hours after the Sindh police chief, Mushtaq Shah, dismissed the uproar over street crime and extortion, saying that it was not out of the ordinary for a big city like Karachi. His offer to traders to post 800 more policemen in badly hit areas was met with little faith.

The MQM retorted that Karachi was the country’s economic bloodline – out of every Rs100 made, Karachi contributes Rs70. MQM’s Haider Abbas Rizvi spoke of the extent of the damage being done as businessmen are taking their business abroad. “They are receiving death threats and threats that their children will be abducted,” Rizvi said. “It seems [like] it is all by design and planned – as if the police in the areas where such incidents are rampant are deployed on the will of the extortionists.” He specifically mentioned Karachi’s biggest flea market in Sher Shah where he said that more than 6,000 shops are stripped of Rs600, 000 every day.

Rizvi was candid that his party may not attend the joint session until the PPP hems in extortion and street crime in Karachi, the country’s industrial hub. “Although we are a part of the coalition government, we cannot forget the support that the people of Karachi have given us by voting for us all these years,” he said outside later on. “We will raise our voice for their protection and also call for a peaceful protest.”

Until the government controls the security situation in Karachi, the party will stage a walk-out every day. For starters, the MQM legislators staged a walkout on Thursday that lasted an hour and 10 minutes. Rizvi said that even though Interior Minister Rehman Malik had announced that they had set up check posts, the situation was just getting worse. Rizvi added that if extortion and target killing were not reduced, his party might boycott the upcoming joint parliamentary session as well.

It is a measure of the complete lack of faith in the police and Sindh government that businessmen went to the chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, to complain about extortion and threats. In fact, they asked him this week to set up a cell at the intelligence agency’s Karachi office where the government plans to install a locator.

Sources said that the newly appointed DG, who was the corps commander of Karachi during its blood summer of 2011, assured the delegation they would completely support the police and Rangers.

Mian Zahid Hussain of the All Karachi Industrial Alliance, Zafar Iqbal of DHA Residents Society and Mehtabuddin Chawla were part of the delegation.

Zahid told The Express Tribune that they reminded the DG of orders issued by the Chief of Army Staff regarding a cell against extortion. “We held a meeting with General Kayani in September and he assured us that a cell would be set up at the ISI office if government installs a mobile phone locator,” he said.

Zahid said that all federal ministers, including Asim Hussain, Rehman Malik and the governor had promised this would happen. The mobile phone tracker costs Rs50 million. But he said that the business community pays around two billion rupees in taxes every day and the government was not doing anything to keep it safe.

Extortion cell

Earlier, angry traders met Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mushtaq Shah in Karachi as these developments unfolded in the capital. He told them that he had added 800 more policemen to the force in a bid to control extortion and street crime.

But they did not seem to be convinced. Karachi’s marble association announced it was going on strike for an unspecified time from Saturday over extortion. Marble Exporter Association’s Sanaullah Khan who met the IGP told The Express Tribune said that marble traders do not trust the police. “They are not worried one bit about us,” he said. “We were not satisfied by their promises. We’ll take back the call for a strike only if things change by Saturday.”

The anti-extortion cell has received 15 complaints since it was set up. Anti Extortion Cell (AEC) chief DSP Wasif Qureshi told The Express Tribune that the cell received complaints in four days from different markets or associations. “It has just been four days since we got to work,” he said. “I hope that now those who have not stepped forward will come to us.”

It did not help that the IG played down street crime. There is no significant difference between old and new crime data, he said at the Garden police headquarters after attending the funeral for a constable who was killed in a shoot-out with robbers on Burnes Road early Thursday. He said the police’s arrests were proof of its performance.

SITE Association chairman Mohammad Irfan Moton flatly disagreed. He told The Express Tribune that there had been no progress in the police’s performance in the area with 3,500 factories. “Each day thousands of people risk their lives and come to work here and risk their lives going back,” he said. “But instead of things getting better they just keep getting worse.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Saleem
    Mar 16, 2012 - 2:18AM

    Look who is talking – a party that invented extortion.


  • ALi Tanoli
    Mar 16, 2012 - 2:45AM

    I guess MQM not getting out of that some HISSA maybe.


  • Frantic
    Mar 16, 2012 - 3:01AM

    Now let’s hear the real story. There was a time when only MQM used to have its share (bhatta) from the cake (Karachi). Things were all good and streamlined. Now thanks to the agencies – which believe in creating pockets of resistance so that the dominating forces in their respective areas could be intimidated whenever the they deem it necessary – parties like ANP, MQM-H, ST, JSQM, PAC have also started to have their shares from this cake. The problem is that traders, industrialists and professionals, who used to give money to the MQM in past, now receive bhatta calls from two or in some areas even three different parties. They tell MQM that we swore allegiance to you O! Sarkar, have been feeding you money since long but you can’t even provide us security in return? If you take money from us, at least provide security – quid pro quo. Since MQM in current political scenario can’t become custodian of their “security” in traditional way, the party has launched a campaign to pacify traders and to resolve this crisis rather politically. [Yawn]


  • mehran
    Mar 16, 2012 - 3:29AM

    LOOK who is TALKING??? LOLX. Fake people, fake slogans and fake actions.


  • mehran
    Mar 16, 2012 - 3:52AM

    LOL. This reminds me a famous Sindhi Folklore citation that a Buffalo ( Complete Black color) utter with anger at white cow with black tail that Oh you! Black, get away from me.
    Moral of story. A big thief cries on penny thief in the garb of saint.


  • ALi Tanoli
    Mar 16, 2012 - 4:56AM

    why MQM never wanna sid in opposition???


  • ALi Tanoli
    Mar 16, 2012 - 5:12AM

    MQM is become a like communist of Russia and china or underworld Mumbai bhai log most fear for even talk about them Recommend

  • Slamna Orangiwala
    Mar 16, 2012 - 11:19AM

    @Ali Tanoli , and you are still living and breathing amongst these :Bhai” logs .Have some gratitude .


  • Slamna Orangiwala
    Mar 16, 2012 - 1:09PM

    All Commentors from outside Karachi .Pray check the the crime records and FIRS of Karachi’s police stations and talk to the Business Communities
    90% of the crimes are committed in Karachi ( especially Extortion ) by thugs from Interior Sindh and Upcountry . 90% of the SHOs of Karachi are from Interior Sindh and upcountry .

    And poor me …..always wondering how come so many people in Punjab and Interior Sindh could “afford” a notebook to wrtite silly comments against Karachi .Gotcha …… : )


  • Azhar Bhatti
    Mar 16, 2012 - 8:48PM

    People who are talking about MQM are wrong , they dont know about Mqm and Karachi
    Basically these people are criminals. They are trying to stop Mqm not to voice on extortion and thereats business men are getting from criminals. I am not Mqm voter , I live in Lahore. If Mqm is raising voice against bad people why people have problem with it. I guess they are the one getting affecting with Mqm protest.Recommend

  • Sachal Sarmast
    Mar 16, 2012 - 10:38PM

    Yes, Altaf Bhai,Zardair and bureaucrats (both civil and uniform) particularly from outside the province can decrease the ferocity of the menace.
    But issue being faced by people of Karachi is genuine. It should be confronted head on. Such culture is destroying remaining faith of the people. So please rise to the occasion. Do not let this country be like some backward African or South-American country. If such culture is put to end, not only Karachi but all other negative (or positive) stakeholders will benefit much more than what are they are getting now.
    As regards issue of hatred against Karachi or Urdu-speaking people, the notion is absolutely subjective and emanates from self-righteousness. When somebody talks against MQM, it never means that it is against Karachi or Urdu-speaking people. MQM does not represent all Urdu-speaking people, it simply represents opportunit middle class whereas poor Urdu-speaking people do not have alternative just because of failure of Leftist and PPP etc to address the issue of majority Urdu-speaking people.
    MQM if did not change itself , it has no futureRecommend

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