KARACHI: Nearly a dozen shops and offices were sealed during a raid by Customs officials in the city’s prominent mobile market in Saddar late Saturday night. The officials and personnel of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and paramilitary Rangers also participated in the raid.
The authorities faced a massive retaliation by traders and shopkeepers who held a prolonged protest against the raid. The traders and shopkeepers vowed to continue their protest if their demands were not met. However, they did not announce anything in particular about shutting down their businesses in reaction to the raid.
“The raid was conducted on a tip-off regarding the sale and purchase of smuggled or stolen mobile phones,” confirmed the Customs spokesperson, Qamar Thalho, while speaking to The Express Tribune. “We have sealed a dozen shops and warehouses.”
So far, no illegal material was found from any shop or office, said Thalho. He said that initially, the shops and warehouses were sealed and they will be scrutinised later. “We just sealed them,” he said. “We have not taken away any material from there right now. We will have to verify within a couple of days if these mobile phones or other valuables were imported legally or not.”
Thalho said that if the shop owners presented the valid documents such as invoices of all the mobile phones, all these shops will remain open. “But if they fail to produce the required documents, these shops and warehouses will remain sealed and their owners will be arrested and dealt with accordingly to the law,” he added.
The raid was conducted in one of the market’s buildings, the ‘Star City Mall’, which has nearly 300 shops. During the raid, each shop was surrounded and then searched. Local businessmen tried to enter the premises during the raid but the Rangers prevented them from doing so.
The market’s association and hundreds of shopkeepers staged a protest against the raid and the Customs officials.
Saddar Mobile Market Association president Idress Memon, while speaking to the media, said they had fully cooperated with the authorities. “We condemned the late night raid that was carried out without any intimation to the shopkeepers,” he said. “Any black sheep among the shopkeepers should be dealt with under the law.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Karachi Electronics and Small Traders Association president Muhammad Rizwan Irfan said that the authorities should conduct the raid in broad daylight after intimating the association. “We are not terrorists,” he said. “We are traders and shopkeepers. But it seemed that this raid was against the terrorists. We have an objection on the attitude of the authorities.”
He said that the smuggled phones arrive at the market through airport or seaport, where the Customs officials are already performing their duties. “But these Customs officials allow the traders by taking heavy bribes,” he said. “On the one hand, they allow the traders to smuggle mobile phones at airports or seaport and, on the other, they conduct such raids at the markets.”
Irfan said that he has already filed a petition stating that the shopkeepers are ready to pay the Customs duty of each mobile and ask the authorities to make a way to pay such duties. “But they do not want to do it because they want to continue the bribery business,” he alleged.
Meanwhile, an FIA spokesperson denied that the FIA conducted the raid.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2015.
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