Shopkeepers are charging 20 percentextra on Eid items and other goods this Ramazan to pay extortion money to criminals and salaries to privately hired security guards deployed at shopping centers and markets in the city, said office-bearers of market associations.
“Shopkeepers are charging 20 percent extra this Ramazan,” said Siddique Memon, chairman of the Karachi Traders Action Committee on Friday.
“They are paying extortion money to criminals and salaries to privately hired security guards from that additional 20 percent income.”
Memon said that the government and police had failed to control extortionists and provide an enabling environment for doing business in the city. Extortionists and political parties were collecting millions of rupee from city markets every day, he alleged.
“Traders in the city pay around Rs50 million per day to extortionists and political parties,” said Memon, adding that as per records available with the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, traders were paying about Rs20 million per day to such criminal elements.
Every day, at least one trader registered a complaint with the Special Investigation Unit – the anti-extortion cell in Saddar – about receiving a demand for extortion money, said Jameel Parach, vice chairman of the All Karachi Tajir Ittehad.
Another office-bearer of a market association, who requested anonymity, said that each shopkeeper was paying from Rs5,000 to Rs25,000 a month on account of extortion and “political charity”.
He said that political parties were forcing market associations to collect “charity” amounts from shopkeepers instead of going door to door to each shop. “Reportedly, the Saddar market has given Rs2.2 million to political parties in the name of charity this Ramazan.”
Memon said that high officials of police, including Sindh IGP Fayyaz Leghari, had promised in pre-Ramazan meetings to deploy about 5,000 police personnel in city markets and shopping malls during the month.
On the contrary, only 500 police personnel were
provided for safeguarding buyers and shoppers, he complained.
To cope up with the situation, traders had hired some 1,250 private security guards to remain protected, he said, adding that they paid their salaries from the additional profit earned from customers. “Also, around 20 cars, 40-45 motorcycles and other valuable things are being looted from markets in the city every day.”
Parach said markets in the vicinity of Old City area – from Tower to Jama Cloths – remained the most troubled. Markets in the area were being closed at 6:30pm every day during Ramazan as compared to at 3:30am in other parts of the city these days.
“Markets in the Old City area have incurred a cumulative loss of about Rs20 billion this Ramazan due to the rule of terror amid law and order situation,” he said.
He added that most of traders from Punjab and interior Sindh did not come to Karachi this season to buy Eid-related goods from wholesale markets, which mostly were located in that troubled area.
He said that Eid-related sales in other markets of the city had picked up the momentum in the last days of Ramazan. However, the volume of sales remained lower than the targeted one.
“Traders were realising 60 percent of sales against their set target for the season,” he said, adding that they had invested some Rs50 billion for the season.