Parchi jua flourishing in provincial capital
By Noshad Ali
LAHORE: The business of selling prize bond numbers, known as parchi jua, is thriving in most parts of the provincial metropolis and has become the favourite form of gambling among locals.
Daily Times observed in a visit to several of these areas that despite the ban by the government, the business is being patronised by some police and government officials. Some dealers have hired shops and houses to portray themselves as legitimate businessmen.
The gambling business started in the city soon after the introduction of the local government system. New shops and stalls, inviting people to try their luck at the prize bond numbers, spring up all the time.
Each shop has its own operational network and employs a team of efficient workers and brokers. They have computers, telephones and faxes for quick communication and accurate record keeping. These brokers can be seen wandering the streets, offering people numbered parchis. They are often involved in other forms of gambling, particularly betting in cricket matches.
There are various ways prize bond numbers can be gambled upon. Buying the first digit of a serial number is called a safha bet; buying the first two figures is aakra; betting on three or more figures is possible too, with higher cash prizes the trade-off for tougher odds. One can even bet on whether the winning numbers will be kali or jut (odd or even).
The Nawaz Sharif government had banned the business through an ordinance on Jan 13, 1995, saying Pakistan being an Islamic state could not afford to morally corrupt people by running a gambling business. A prize bond dealer, on condition of anonymity, said there were 20 to 30 main dealers in the city.
“But the federal government had to lift the ban as out of total bonds worth Rs 30 billion in circulation at that time, bonds worth Rs 20 billion were returned to banks within a month,” he said. “After this, the ban on the prize bond business was lifted, but parchi jua is still not allowed.”
Daily Times found that Anarkali, Garhi Shahoo, Chaburji, Mozang, Ichra, Awan Town, Sabzazar, Nawankot, Johar Town, Township and Green Town main markets, Dharampura, Tangian wala bazaar, Mughalpura, Shalimar, and Shah Alam and its markets were the main areas that bookies were active in.
Eleven gambling dens operate under the supervision of influential personalities of the areas, for example, Iqrar Ahmad alias Lado Jutt of Dholanwal — a general councillor of Nawankot.
Two shops, Hafiz Prize Bond Dealer and Ansari Prize Bond Dealer, are operating in Anarkali. Koh-e-Noor, Ghafar Enterprises, Hajveri Enterprises in Gari Shahoo, Saadi and Saadi Enterprises in Chaburji, Samar and Samar Enterprises near the accountant general’s office in Mozang, Muzafar Mochi in Madina Colony, Nikka at Awan Town near Hanjarwal police station, Ishfaq of Saidpur and Akram of Kharak stop in Sabzazar police limits, Muhammad Jamil in Johar Town, Jaaj in Ghoray Shah and Karachi Memon near Azam Cloth Market are the most popular dens of the city.
A Madina Colony resident said Mochi was running his business on the upper storey of his residence, where he had installed security cameras at the entrance of the house. “He has three telephone lines, one of which is directly linked to a bookie in India,” the local said. He added that the authorities could easily shut down his business, “simply by looking at his phone bills. But they don’t want to because they earn extra money from him,” he alleged.
A Gari Shahoo resident said in the last draw, held at the beginning of this month, the Gari Shahoo SHO had not permitted the owner of Koh-e-Noor Enterprises to sell numbers in Gari Shahoo police limits, so the owner had shifted his office to Race Course police precincts. He said his business had not been harmed, because “his (the Koh-e-Noor Enterprises owner’s) brokers still sell numbers in Gari Shahoo after getting parchis from the Race Course office.”
A few dealers involved in this business told Daily Times the business should be legalized, because it would generate extra revenue for the government through taxes. “How come it is illegal for private concerns to ‘gamble’, but not for the government?” wondered one dealer.