KARACHI: The business of supplying water through illegal hydrants has become so lucrative that it has attracted the drug mafia, The Express Tribune has learnt.
In the past few years, several gangsters, who were previously trading drugs, have joined the water business seeking greater profits. “Our father was a fool running a narcotics business in Karachi,” a source, quoting a notorious drug peddler in the city, told The Express Tribune.
Like any other illegal trade, the water supply business has also been given the blessings of some officials of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) and the police. “No one can operate a narcotics or gambling business without the support of the police and, similarly, no one can run illegal water hydrants without the support of the relevant officials,” admitted an official.
In his opinion, the ongoing drive against illegal hydrants is a media gimmick to scare the operators of illegal hydrants and increase “bribery rates”. “This crackdown is actually not against all the illegal hydrants but it is against only those who are not paying properly to the officials, who now want to replace them with new ones.”
Based on official records, there are 13 illegal hydrants in district central, six in Malir, 10 in east, four in south and 61 in west. Three months ago, following instructions from the provincial government, commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui directed the deputy commissioners of all five districts of the city to take severe action against these 84 illegal hydrants and launch crackdown on the sandstones [raiti-bajri] mafia in Karachi.
The commissioner had also asked the officials to detain all the people involved in illegal water trade, seize their vehicles and machinery and demolish the constructions besides disconnecting the illegal connections. “Three months have been passed but you can tell what the situation is given that an illegal hydrant was recently established in the Ahsanabad area of Sohrab Goth,” pointed out an official of the KWSB, on the condition of anonymity.
On October 7, an owner of a prominent restaurant in Karachi, accused of installing an illegal connection, was arrested along with his companion during the ongoing crackdown against illegal water hydrants. According to Ibrahim Hyderi SHO Khan Nawaz, Huzoor Buksh Kalhoro was arrested along with his companion, Shakeel, after the former was accused of being involved in stealing water by running illegal hydrants. He was, however, released later after the Sindh IGP intervened.
According to another source, the main reason behind this arrest was reclaiming territory. “Imran Mehmood, the main operative of illegal hydrants in the area, wanted to kick Kalhoro off,” he said. “He asked Kalhoro to pay Rs20 million to continue running the illegal connection. When he refused, they got him arrested.”
Meanwhile, the commissioner insisted that the crackdown will continue until all of them are demolished. “The operation is taking place across the board and our aim is to facilitate the citizens,” he promised. “It is hard to impose the law if everyone has been habitual of breaking it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2013.
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