KARACHI: With an armed man by his side, Anil sits alert outside his liquor shop near Sea View, staring at every person entering the street. “Of course we are afraid to work now. What if a suicide bomber blows up the shop?” asks the troubled dealer.
Amidst fear and anxiety, four liquor shops, three in DHA and one in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, which were targeted a week ago, have reopened, but shopkeepers continue to complain about declining business and police negligence.
“The buyers are just as much scared. If we had 100 customers coming in regularly before, there are less than 50 turning up now,” he said.
Fearing more deadly attacks, wine dealers have started taking precautions for their safety.
At Shaheen Corporation’s wine shop near Village Restaurant on Sea View, where Anil works, he is telling people to park their vehicles far away from the shop.
“We can’t turn customers away or decide which one to sell to. At the moment, we are just asking them to park their cars at a distance in case any vehicle is laden with explosives.”
Anil, who has been working at the shop since its inception two years ago, says the claims of police patrol around wine shops are untrue. “We were shocked when our shop was targeted as we have never faced any difficulty selling alcohol. The police should provide us with security and track down miscreants involved in these attacks.”
In the absence of police patrol near Ittehad Traders and Wine Shop located near Sea View McDonalds, which was also attacked a week back, the owners have hired two private guards.
As labourers put cement on the steps damaged by the explosion, a worker at the shop said that they had also planned to install doors with grills.
In Karachi, there are up to 50 wine shops, which were closed down in the month of Ramazan. After the holy month ended, wine dealers were reluctant, however, to immediately open their shops.
“Every year after the one-month closure, we open up shops on chand raat, but this time we decided to delay their opening,” said a supplier and member of the wine association of the city.
Extortion – struck out
Wine suppliers and owners denied that the shops were being attacked over extortion threats as claimed by the police initially.
Requesting anonymity, an owner of the targeted shop denied that he got any extortion parchis or threatening phone calls.
“I have not received any calls or threats by extortionists, else I would have informed the police. These attacks seem to be made by religious extremists.”
Darakshan SHO Ahsan Zulfiqar did not want to discuss the matter unless investigations were complete, but said that he was not aware of any extortion threats made to the owners of these shops.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2013.