Violence and strikes sending businesses in Karachi down the drain

By: Ismail Dilawar

KARACHI – Frequent incidents of violence and the consequent sense of paranoia in the country’s financial hub have seriously jeopardized businesses, and put a majority of the traders and businessmen under heavy debts during recent years.

The traders claim to have become insolvent due to violence, such as politically-motivated targeted killings, and frequent strikes that partially or completely cease the businesses activity in the port city. “Almost 80 percent of the traders in the city are breathing hard under heavy debts which they owe to the goods’ suppliers,” said Muhammad Atiq Mir, chairman of the All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (AKTI), a body representing around 400 city markets. This, he said, was because of the politically and religiously motivated violence, which is now the order of the day.

Mir said most of the traders’ shops were filled with suppliers’ goods. “Due to consistently increasing inflation and violence, the traders’ income has been going down,” he said. “Irrespective of the reasons, each day of suspended businesses activity costs the city traders at least Rs 2.5 to Rs 3 billion,” he said, adding that this amount reflected the revenues only. “Daily trading activity can roughly be estimated at over a trillion rupees,” said Mir, who also chairs the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (FPCCI) standing committee on small traders and cottage industries.

A strong proponent of army’s deployment in Karachi, Mir believes that continued crime and violence in the country’s financial capital was tantamount to “economic murder” of the traders. “Given the fact that the Rangers and police have been rendered ineffective, the army should play its constitutional role to wage an operation in Karachi similar to the ones in Waziristan and Swat,” he said. He recalled that during the last three years, trade and business activities in the troubled city had never been carried out at normal pace. “It’s been 60 percent below its real speed,” Mir said, adding that recent targeted killings coupled with violent riots against the anti-Islam film were playing havoc with the remaining 40 percent businesses.

Blaming major political actors, including the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), for violence in the city, Mir said it was unfortunate that the political parties in power had failed to improve security situation in the city, which had become a war zone. “More disheartening is the fact that the government, which is constitutionally required to reconcile or enforce law, has become party to the ongoing conflict,” he said.

However, he backed the federal government’s decision to observe a countrywide strike on Friday in order to lodge Pakistan’s official protest against the insulting film. “This is a welcome step. Had the government not responded to the sentiments of the enraged masses, there would have been more violence,” he added.

However, he wants Islamabad to do more to voice its protest internationally. Pakistan should engage the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to make the United Nations legislate laws against such anti-Islam acts, he suggested.

Courtesy: Pakistan Today

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