KARACHI: There is no denying that the security situation in Karachi has improved. The question is by how much?
Traders and industrialists in the city have declared the situation in Ramazan as the best in the last five years.
While the Rangers-led Karachi operation may stir controversy among politicians, city dwellers and businessmen seem satisfied.
“This Ramazan is completely different from the previous five years as we have noticed a significant drop in cases of extortion and forced zakat and fitra collection,” Old City Traders Alliance Chairman Jameel Paracha said.
Businessmen believe there has been gradual improvement in the security situation of Karachi that has made it possible for them to operate freely this Ramazan, a shopping season for which businesses prepare the whole year.
“This year, we were told by the Sindh Rangers to report any cases of extortion, forced zakat and fitra collection. Everything is under control and traders have not been pressurised by anyone this year, Paracha added.
Karachi has seen one of the worst episodes of violence and insecurity in the past five years. Within the metropolis, old city areas, which are home to the country’s biggest and busiest wholesale and retail markets, were the worst affected neighbourhoods.
Traders and businessmen have stated that forced collection of zakat and fitra is an old practice in Karachi, but the city saw its ugliest face in the last five years.
Various groups used to demand collections during the last week of Ramazan, but they gradually became daring and started threatening businessmen right from the first week of the holy month.
In 2011 and 2012, the situation deteriorated to a level where extortionists started attacking shops with hand grenades when their owners refused to pay them hefty amounts. Sometimes, the shop owners were killed in broad daylight to instill fear among others.
This year, well before the start of Ramazan, Sindh Rangers started meeting various political and religious party leaders urging them for cooperation against the practice of forced zakat and fitra collection in the city.
“Few days ago, Sindh Rangers officials came to my shop and gave me a number. I was told to report any incidence of zakat or fitra collection in the area vicinity. I was told that the security force will also book any shopkeeper who was found guilty of giving money to any individual or party,” a shopkeeper told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
One of Karachi’s biggest and oldest industrial zones - Sindh Industrial Trading Estate - has suffered the most in the last few years, however, the situation is gradually improving.
“There has been a major difference between last year and this year. The security situation has improved after the Ranger-led operations in the city,” SITE Association of Industry Jawed Bilwani said.
However, he urged the Sindh government to improve the policing system to permanently improve the security situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2015.
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