They came for the fried chicken.
Perhaps the men who came to pillage the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) branch at PIDC didn’t like chilli garlic ketchup. That was one of the packets they left behind.
Everything else in the restaurant is gone – including the stock of chicken and other food, and Pepsi.
A branch manager and two baffled employees surveyed the damage on Saturday morning, trying to wrap their heads around what had happened.
“They’ve taken four split air conditioners… look, they couldn’t yank this one out so it’s still here,” said a kitchen staffer, as he looked at an AC hanging from its cables.
The KFC branch is flooded with water and shards of glass that crunch beneath the feet. “Look at the bathroom,” said an employee. “They’ve taken away the taps. That’s why it’s flooded!”
The delivery systems, most of the furniture and the computers at the popular KFC outlet have gone. Witnesses said that they saw the men balancing their newfound loot on their heads. The mob could easily build an entire restaurant from what it stole.
Abu Bakar, who runs Moosa Pan Shop and General Store at PIDC, said two freezers of soft drinks had been broken into. “Our loss is around Rs80,000 to Rs90,000.”
The pattern was repeated at all of the banks at PIDC. MCB, UBL, NIB, Allied Bank and Al Baraka branches have been gutted, and the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) has suffered extensive damage. Sheraton’s windows appear to have been smashed, though they covered them up with wooden laticework.
“The cash in the ATM and the bank is safe,” said the NBP manager. “The material losses… all the furniture and the PCs. We haven’t done an assessment yet but we’re looking at up to Rs3 million in losses.”
An NBP employee, Farrukh, said he had been witness to every bomb blast at PIDC, including one in 1996. “Still I have never seen damage like this before,” he said, standing amid a pile of broken glass. “We just got about eight new Pentiums… they took them away too.”
Those responsible for the carnage broke through the grilles, smashed the glass and then systematically began to take everything of value. At all the banks, the ATMs were wrenched out of the walls and smashed in. There is no furniture, computers or infrastructure left.
At MCB, a customer idled around, trying to see if he could speak to someone. “I’ve been here twice just to get the assurance that the lockers are safe,” he said. “I have been told that they are.” At UBL, an employee said they would only be able to assess the damage once the surveyors came in. Throughout the morning, longtime workers at the banks came drifting in to see their office turned into a mangled pile of steel and rubble.
But while they were despondent, for some, it was a chance to profiteer.
Young boys snaked around, collecting the largest pieces of broken glass they could find to sell. “I’m going to take this to Shershah,” said Mullah Dad, as he balanced a huge sack on his back,
“I’ll get two or three thousand rupees from this.”
At NBP, the smaller pieces of glass were collected and dumped on a truck. “KMC should clean this up,” a staffer said.
A traffic police check post at PIDC has also been gutted. One officer tried to clean up the building, while another stared out. “I’ve been in the traffic police for 26 years. I’ve never seen anything like what happened yesterday. We had to run to save our lives.”
The blackened walls of the check post hid everything, including a wooden plaque with officers’ names. “The government will know how much the damage is, but it looks like around Rs200,000,” he said. At the Civil Lines police station, stand the burnt-out carcasses of the three police mobiles that bore the brunt of the protestors’ ire.
“What could we have done?” said a number of officers from the station. “There were about six or seven of us against their thousands,” said one. “We had no orders – only to look at what was happening. If we had shot at them, then you know how they would have turned against us.”
“Those boys – about 40 of them – were easily lifting up the containers! How are we supposed to control them?” asked an officer.
“They took the motor away from the PIDC check post. Our cars have been burnt, our men injured,” the other officer said. “No one ever cares about what happens to the police.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.