With rising cases of extortion just days before the start of Ramazan, the business community of Karachi believes that extortionists (Bhatta mafia) have given a strong signal to businessmen and law enforcement agencies that they are prepared to repeat the horrific tale of the same month last year.
While most businessmen agree that extortionists have gradually spread their influence in the last few years in Karachi, some do believe that the graph of extortion cases actually rises in Ramazan.
In the previous Ramazan, the city saw a horrific wave of target killings and extortion in which hundreds of people were killed that compelled the business community to demand direct intervention of the army to control the situation.
From small traders to top businessmen, everyone blames the present government for its ineffective policies and failure to control law and order in the last few years. The deteriorating law and order situation over the past couple of years in the financial hub and port city of Pakistan has proved devastating for both local and foreign investors.
President of the top body of businesspersons of the country, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Haji Fazal Kadir Sherani told The Express Tribune that the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi has been the single biggest hurdle in the way of local and foreign investment.
“Top businessmen have pulled out billions of rupees and are investing in Dubai, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia owing to the deteriorating security situation in the city,” Sherani said. “Recently, Japanese investors have clearly told us that they will not invest here unless the government controls the security problems.”
Present situation of Karachi is because of the failed policies of the government, he said, adding “we met President Asif Ali Zardari three days ago and shared our concerns over security issues, but I do not think things are going to improve in the near future.”
Many businessmen are of the view that extortionists increase their activities in Ramazan as they demand money in different forms like Zakat, Fitra, Eidi and other related things.
Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Mian Abrar Ahmed said despite repeated requests the provincial government seems to be least bothered about controlling extortion cases in Karachi.
“We raise our voice as representatives of the business community. We cannot take on criminals because it is not our responsibility,” said Ahmed, who heads the city’s top body of businessmen and traders with over 18,000 members.
Some fear that since general elections are just months away, political activists will start collecting funds for their parties from this Ramazan.
All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Atiq Mir said it seems that extortionists do better preparation for Ramazan than the police and Rangers. “There is certainly a link between extortion and Ramazan,” Mir said. “As extortionists become more active in Ramazan as if they have started preparing for this holy month.”
Chairman of one of the biggest industrial areas of Karachi, the SITE Association of Industry, Muhammad Irfan Moton said police and Rangers are totally ineffective in the city as extortionists are openly challenging the writ of government.
“What message should one get when industrialists give names and mobile numbers of extortionists to police, but they continue to get threatening calls from extortionists,” he asked.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.
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