Editorial : Shutterdown in Karachi - Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Extortionists, kidnappers and bandits seem to thrive in Karachi where most legal businesses remain on the edge because of the recent surge in crimes. The effective shutterdown by small shopkeepers and traders on Tuesday reflects the growing frustration of the business community over the government’s inaction against crime mafias in the city. The bigger trade and business groups, however, deferred their shutterdown to give the government more time for a crackdown on criminals. The cracks in the protest strategy are understandable as closing businesses is never a first choice, but the last resort - especially in Karachi where countless workdays are lost because armed militants belonging to various political parties often force trade centres and markets to close. But the biggest problem for Karachi’s business community remains widespread extortion and kidnappings for ransom cases. The old parts of Karachi, the hub of most retail and wholesale businesses, are the worst affected. The stories of ‘receipts,’ or ‘parchis’ demanding a few hundred to millions of rupees as protection money or ‘bhatta’ from victims is now an everyday occurrence for those who do business in the city. The refusal to pay often leads to armed assaults or even killings.

Although most political groups have been involved in this activity to some extent, the recent rise in crime has been blamed largely on the shadowy Peoples’ Aman Committee (PAC) of Lyari, the stronghold of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) in the city. Although the PAC, once called a sister organisation of the ruling party, enjoyed the blessings of some key PPP Sindh stalwarts, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced the banning of the group on March 17 to meet a key demand of the estranged coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. But little action has so far been taken on the ground. The government’s inability to curb extortion and kidnappings, led to protests by traders and shopkeepers last month, prompting President Zardari to again issue directives to the interior minister to fight the menace in coordination with the provincial government. But political considerations seem to prevent the authorities from going after the gangs in Karachi. The truth is that criminals operate under the cover of all the major political parties in Karachi, which have criminalised politics and politicised crime. What Karachi needs is even-handed, impartial action. For this the city needs not just an independent police force but a speedy justice system. Major political parties, especially the ones in the ruling coalition, also need to walk their talk and clear their stables of criminals. The first prerequisites for a flourishing economy remain rule of law and security. Karachi in 2011 is certainly more dangerous than it was in 2008 when the PPP came to power. The government needs to do some soul-searching to find out what went wrong and start corrective measures. 

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=40028&Cat=8

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