Cell phones turn ‘extortion tools’
By Farheen Rizvi:
The city which was famous for its lights and night life is currently surrounded by the pandemic of extortion. Karachi has always been proactive in organising cultural and business events for Pakistan. The 2007 survey of United Nation declared Karachi as Pakistan’s most business-friendly city and the mercer survey of 2010 said that Karachi is the cheapest city among many metropolitan cities.
The city is also famous for its revenue generation statistics for Pakistan. The lion share of Karachi in FBR is more than 50% of whole collection. But the recent wave of criminal activities among which extortion from businesses and kidnapping of businessmen for ransom is on peak. The worst incident happened in 2010 in Sher Shah Market carnage where twelve innocent traders were killed by the criminals for not paying extortion money. The rest of the market was the eye witness of the incident but the criminals were set free by the court of law. Although the terrorists Act 7 ATA clearly defines the extortion as criminal activity with the minimum of seven year imprisonment and death penalty for of death of any person but the above Act has not been implemented in the Karachi.
The mobile phones have been transformed into a crime device, which criminals use to demand ransom and extortion money. The easy availability of SIM cards and weak regulations have provided criminals an easy device to carry their heinous crimes like blasts and kidnapping and extortion. MQM Chief Altaf Hussain has also asked Interior Minister Rehman Malik to introduce strict laws on the use of pre-paid mobile SIM cards.
MQM Chief has also offered Muttahida-Tahaffuz-e-Businessman Forum for the safety of businessmen as they requested him. He said that he will reserve 100,000 party activists for the security of businessmen against extortionists which had become widespread menace in the city. He announced this in Iftar dinner held by MQM where Rehman Malik and CM Sindh were present. Although his statement was not welcomed by the government, but the business community which is running economic engine in this weak economy needs adequate security.
On March 15, 2012 MQM representatives staged walkout from the National Assembly in protest against the extortion in Karachi, they demanded from government to take immediate notice of the lawlessness in the city.
In June 2012 a city wide strike was observed by the Business centers, petrol pumps, CNG stations against the extortion mafia and lawlessness in Karachi. The strike was supported by MQM in which a former MPA’s brother was shot dead by unknown gunmen.
According to the official report of Sind Police from 2008 till date, the kidnapping for ransom is growing every year. In 2004 to 2006 the mobile phone snatching was a common crime on the streets of Karachi now the criminals use mobile phones to ask for ransom for kidnapped person.
Reportedly more than 700 small traders have received receipts for extortion and on daily basis big businessmen receive phone calls regarding extortion money. On keeping the anonymity, a local restaurant owner shared that he received bullets in the chitys which mean “pay or death”. The rise in the extortion and kidnapping is related to criminal gangs but we can’t rule out rising unemployment situation as one of the factors.
CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif arranged four mobile locators for Punjab police, but in Sindh Rehman Malik promised to provide two mobile locators for businessmen community but this promise is still a promise, unfulfilled. Only one LEA is using the system and the whole process of locating the criminals and lodging FIR through CPLC takes more than one month which is disturbing for Karachiites.
Mr Altaf Hussain’s demand for SIMs’ laws regulation and offer of creating force through MQM workers may not sound a welcome idea but in a situation where Police and Judiciary has failed to punish the criminals and citizens are left on the mercy of criminals, section 97 of Pakistan Penal Code allows the self defense of body and property.
Karachi is the financial hub of the country and the situation threatening the business community of the city will also impact the rest of the country. But addressing the situation and raising the voice is not subject of MQM only. It is government’s responsibility to take proper action to stop the extortion activities which in the long run ared threatening the whole country.