Traders from two markets on Sunday filed complaints regarding extortion threats they said they had received from unknown men.
Seth Arshad, a jeweller, told Shalimar police that he was asked to pay Rs300,000 over the phone. He said he had been warned of dire consequences if he failed to pay the amount.
Owner of Riaz Jewellers, Muhammad Riaz, said he had also gotten a similar phone call and the callers had demanded Rs300,000.
In Mughalpura, trader Imtiaz Ahmed, lodged a similar complaint, saying the callers had not yet told him how he was to pay Rs400,000 they had demanded. He said they had made threats to harm his family if he failed to pay the sum.
The complainants refused to talk to The Express Tribune, saying that they did not want to take any unnecessary risks.
Ahmed, however, said they all had been instructed by Civil Lines SP Maroof Safdar Wahla to not talk to journalists about the details of the extortion threats.
At least six extortion cases were reported in July.
Muhammad Ashraf, a trader lodged a complaint with Shadbagh police station on July 23 saying he had received threatening phone calls and a Rs200,000 demand. In Green Town, trader Bilawal lodged a similar complaint.
Muhammad Arif Khan, a cable operator in Township, filed a complaint saying he had received calls from unknown men demanding Rs100,000.
Khan said, “They apparently know everything about my family. They have threatened to harm us if I fail to pay them the amount.”
His wife said the police had so far not taken any action on their complaint.
On July 6, traders at Hall Road had also received similar threats. Electronics and mobile phone traders at the market had held a protest demonstration to draw attention to the increasing number of extortion calls.
The protestors claimed that they had been threatened by an influential group in Hall Road to pay extortion on weekly and monthly basis. They said the police was informed about the situation but no action was taken.
Qila Gujjer Singh SHO Nasir Hameed said, “The police have investigated these complaints. We found that a group is alleging threats by the other onaccount of market politics. No organised extortion mafia presence has been detected.”
Qila Gujjer Singh DSP Nasir Mushtaq said, “The police are investigating the complaints but traders who staged the protest demonstration are not cooperating with us.”
Most Hall Road traders told The Express Tribune that they were fearful of talking openly about threats
Shabbir Labbha, president of the Traders’ Association, said, “We have received very serious threats which were never investigated by the police. The traders too scared to speak openly because the police have not taken any action to protect them.”
A trader speaking on condition of anonymity said “There are more than1,000 shops in the market. Two brothers, Shaukat Khan and Liaqat Khan have forced most traders into paying Rs1,000 every month. The police knows about their activities but they haven’t taken any action against them.”
Civil Lines SP Maroof Safdar Wahla said, “The police have registered FIRs on traders’ complaints. Arrests are expected soon.”
Commenting on the threats made to traders at Hall Road, he said trade unions defamed the police department by making baseless allegations. He said the police had concluded after thorough investigations that there were no extortion threats at Hall Road. He said traders getting rent from stalls in front of their shops was sometimes seen as extortion.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2013.