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Life threats to business community in Karachi on the rise

KARACHI: The businessmen and commercial traders in Karachi came under direct life threats by the extortion mafia while the statistics support the high occurrence of extortion incidents in Ramazan.According to traders bodies and businessmen groups the city’s main economic hubs like I I Chundrigar Road, M A Jinnah Road, Saddar Electronic Market, Ghouri Garden, Boulton Market and adjoining commercial centers and shopping malls were receiving life threats from the extortion groups with money slips.The representatives of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Karachi Cotton Exchange KCE), Uni Plaza, Techno City, wholesalers and retailers business groups on MA Jinnah Road and Electronic Market in Saddar besides hundreds of traders of several commercial buildings and shopping malls in Saddar claimed despite repeated requests in this regard, Karachi police acted as the silent spectators of misery that continued harassing businessmen and traders.There were many reports that hundreds of complaints from retailers, shopkeepers, and businessmen and even from professionals who were being harassed to death for money has been left on their mercy.Police department and other law enforcing agencies have confirmed these extortion reports by the cruel extortionists who were more active than ever in Ramazan.The police admitted the actual number of extortion incidents were many times higher since the vast majority of extortion demands go unreported and victims usually decide to pay.In recent past meeting of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with businessmen of Karachi, the President of KCCI Abdullah Zaki and other traders’ bodies’ representatives briefed Nawaz Sharif about incidents of distribution of chits for extortion money. Nawaz assured the businessmen for resolution of this menace.This would be a record year of extortion incidents in Karachi if the Sindh government took no action.Most of the registered cases are the complaints of the people who have refused to pay extortion money. So the people who do pay extortion money, out of threat of life are totally unaccounted for and no statistics show as to what actually goes around in the streets of Karachi in relation to this extortion business.As Karachi continues to be a victim of extortion neither the government nor the police have come up with any effective policies to curb this endemic of extortion which plagues city, they lamented.The death threat came in handwritten note including, “If you do not pay us 100,000 (even Rs 1 million), we will cut you into pieces and kill your entire dear ones”.The extortion mafia has hurt the city’s economy, a city with its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product declining to 45 percent from 60 percent in last two years.The home of the nation’s stock exchange, its central bank and the Pakistan headquarters of multinational companies Karachi generates 54 percent of the country’s tax revenues, down from 63 percent in 2010, according to the SITE Association of Industry, which represents 3,000 industrial units in the city.One of the businessmen said, “Caller knew the names of my children and the school they go to”. No government agency can guarantee our security, a member of SITE Association said.Business has suffered a lot and even employees are not safe leaving or entering factories. Factory owners who refuse to make extortion payments have been attacked and have had their businesses vandalised, he said.For small traders, dealing with the threats has become part of doing business, said a shop owner in Boulton Market.Organised extortion first emerged in Karachi in the 1980s as neighborhood gangs demanded money from businesses in return for protection from rival outfits, said an expert on Karachi affairs.

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