KARACHI: Every year, the month of Ramazan brings slowdown to some businesses while there are some that thrive. Among the businesses that flourish in Karachi is extortion.
About two weeks ago, in the presence of high-ranking police officers at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), businessmen called on the government to either improve security in Karachi or provide weapons for all the business community. They also vowed that they would start their own campaign for acquiring licensed weapons for their defence after Eid-ul-Fitr.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Mian Abrar Ahmed, President of KCCI, the top body of businessmen and traders of the city with over 18,000 members, said providing licensed weapons to the business community is one of the best options in present conditions.
“We are in continuous contact with the law-enforcement agencies and by continuously pitching this idea we believe it can improve the city’s security situation,” he said.
Citing a recent incident, Ahmed said a trader in one of the posh markets of Karachi killed a robber and believed the deterrent of licensed weapons would work in the absence of strong policing.
The demand for weapons is not new, the city’s business community has been asking for them for a few years. With a growing population and declining state control, Karachi – the financial capital of the country – has turned into a hub of extortionists.
The city saw a horrific wave of target killings and extortion last year in which hundreds of people were killed that eventually compelled the business community to call for direct intervention of the army to control the situation.
The businessmen believe that the city police have their own weaknesses that actually help criminal elements. Other problems like lack of technical support and lack of political will to control crimes also impact the performance of the police.
However, some other businessmen were of the view that licensed weapons were not the only answer to the security issue. Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI) Chairman Ehtesham Uddin said the responsibility of the government does not end by providing weapons to the business community. “The right answer is to invest in police to control crimes in this city of around 20 million people,” he said.
Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) Karachi Chief Ahmed Chinoy pointed out that the CPLC acts as an intermediary between police and people, trying to convince the latter to stop paying money to the extortionists and lodge FIRs against them.
“The extortionists are minting easy money by threatening the common man. They are being encouraged because of our behaviour,” he said.
However, he said, the Sindh police are continuously arresting small and big gangs involved in extortion. “I just want to request people to have a little patience. Moreover, I would say that investigations and other operations are on right track.”
An owner of a large departmental store chain in Karachi, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Express Tribune that as far as controlling extortion is concerned, it is far from satisfactory.
There have been dozens of incidents in which houses of businessmen and leading store chains, which refused to pay money to the extortionists, have been targeted with hand grenades, he said.
Not only traders and small businessmen, the corporate sector is also worried over the security situation.
OICCI – the largest association of multinationals in Pakistan with over 180 members – is increasingly vocal about the security challenges in the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.