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March 31, 2020

Superstore sealed over violation of social distancing order


March 31, 2020

The third branch of Imtiaz Supermarket in Gulshan-e-Iqbal was sealed on Monday evening for violating the Karachi commissioner's social distancing orders.

Despite repeated warnings, the management of the store was not ensuring social distancing inside the store, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Assistant Commissioner Ali Gopang told The News.

“People were standing shoulder to shoulder inside the store. All the measures that government has asked to take to ensure the lockdown were being violated inside the store,” he said.

Gulshan-e-Iqbal Police Station's ASP Muhammad Maroof said that the shopkeepers were repeatedly told to ensure social distancing in and outside the store. He said that the store management was also told not to allow more people to enter the store at a time.

“When more people go inside, they stand shoulder to shoulder and can become cause of the pandemic,” he said. He added that outside stores, the police themselves make sure that a proper queue is formed and each buyer stands at a sufficient distance. When these buyers make their way inside stores, it then becomes the responsibility of the store management to manage them, the police officer said. “They must stop the entry of shoppers when the rush increases outside, but they don’t do that.”

There are around 18 mega stores alone in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, where, Gopang said, their teams kept making rounds for inspections. “We are checking every store continuously and repeatedly,” he said and added that they kept receiving complaints regarding such supermarkets violating their orders at the commissioner's complaint cell.

On a question regarding the duration of the seal, the assistant commissioner responded that it was at the discretion of the commissioner or the deputy commissioner East.

Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani on Sunday ordered the Imtiaz Supermarket’s Korangi branch to be sealed after he found his orders regarding social distancing were being violated there during his visit in the afternoon. An FIR at the Bahadurabad police station was also lodged against the supermarket’s Awami Markaz branch on Sunday over violations of the sections 144 and 188 as a large number of people had gathered inside and outside the superstore.

The commissioner also urged the citizens to keep the distance of at least one metre while shopping. He asked all the deputy commissioners (DCs) of the city to enforce the order of one-meter distance in their respective districts.

According to a statement issued by the Commissioner Office on Sunday, Shallwani visited different markets of the city to observe how his orders of maintaining social distance were being carried out.

He said the Imtiaz Superstore’s Korangi branch was not implementing the orders of the government regarding social distancing. “Those stores or markets which fail to adopt precautionary measures will be sealed,” he said and added that only one trolley at a time was allowed to shop. No official of the Imtiaz Supermarket was available for comment despite repeated attempts to reach them.

Store’s version

Speaking to The News, an official of the supermarket said that their Korangi branch had already been de-sealed on Monday afternoon. The official shared that at least 25,000 to 30,000 buyers make their way to their supermarkets and it is nearly impossible for their guards to control them.

“If the government wants to seal our stores, it could. Our owner won’t be affected as much as public will be,” the official said and added that eight branches of the supermarket were operational in the city.

When their guards try to control the buyers, the official said, the public resorts to manhandling them. “Just three days ago when guards tried to manage a few ladies, they ended up beating him at the Gulshan branch."

When asked why they had not let only a few buyers at a time enter their stores, the official responded that it was not possible when there were thousands of buyers waiting in queues outside.

The official demanded of the government to deploy law enforcers inside and outside the supermarket if they wanted social distancing to be maintained.