Gamblers who were operating small-scale dens in various neighbourhoods of Karachi are facing the wrath of the police officers while their bigger counterparts have travelled across the seas for greener pastures.
The police started a crackdown against gambling dens after an internal report, a copy of which was obtained by The Express Tribune, revealed that all such dens were being run under the patronage of policemen.
The law enforcers launched a citywide crackdown against all such facilities but have only managed to get their hands on small-scale gamblers. The kingpin of gambling in Karachi, Muhammad Waseem alias Waseem Beater, has reportedly fled the country. Waseem, 40, who grew up in poverty, became the underworld don of gambling. He has now spread his operation to other parts of the world, such as Malaysia and Dubai.
“Waseem has already shifted to Malaysia,” said an official privy to the matter. “Before the crackdowns began, he came to Karachi for a short while and asked his men to shut down or limit their business.” The source said that Waseem has already handed over his business in Karachi to his subordinates and is looking after his foreign ventures now.
Since last week, the police have taken action against 60 of its personnel who were accused of running dens in Karachi. Meanwhile, they have also arrested hundreds of gamblers and narcotics dealers from the list of dens prepared by the Sindh police special branch.
Other fish in the sea
Apart from Waseem, notorious gamblers Saleem Abbasi, Javed Baloch, Anwar Theli, Javed Kargo, Pappu and Zameer Butt, Shahid, Raees, Arshad, Taufeeq, Munawar Hockey, Tahir Chacha Muhammad Hussain, Sattar, Hanif, Jabbar Jhengu, Ustad Taju and other big gamblers continue to run their businesses in Liaquatabad, Malir City, Ghas Mandi, Defence, Korangi, Landhi, Nazimabad and New Karachi.
“No one can stop these businesses because the police are not the only ones involved,” said a senior police officer. “This action was purely against small dens and operatives while the major ones were asked beforehand to shutdown or limit their businesses before the crackdown.”
Gamblers not too worried
Several senior police officials, gamblers and narcotics dealers are under the impression that the recent campaign is only a ‘media trial’ and that it will die down. “If the list was authentic then why was Waseem Beater’s name not mentioned anywhere?” a senior policeman asked, hinting that the special branch list was designed to target smaller gamblers.
“This is not new,” another police officer admitted. “Since I joined the police force, I have seen several such crackdowns, especially after a new police officer is appointed.” According to him, it is all a game for money. “They [police] use such pressure tactics to increase the rates of their own bhatta from these dens.” He was sure the same dens will spring up in no time.
Even the gamblers are not too worried. “In our language, we call it completing the ‘total’,” a notorious gambler in the city told The Express Tribune. This means, the police are merely making arrests as a formality. “Every time before a crackdown, a policeman asks us to hand over some men so they can be ‘arrested’. Once the media reports that so many people were arrested and their seniors appreciate their performance, these men are released.”
Business goes on
Since last week’s crackdown, most dens are opening only for selected people so the gamblers are running their business through telephones or the internet. Even small-scale dens have started using a stack of playing cards to survive, a local gambler said. “We are facing a massive shortage of playing cards. Once we bought it on Rs120 and now we are buying it for Rs250.”
Even narcotics dealers are cashing in on the crackdown to increase their rates. “When we find the den closed for very long, we are prepared to pay much higher prices for the drugs,” a young addict admitted.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2013.
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