KARACHI, June 20: Around 300 traders have sought arms licences through their representative bodies within a week of the government promise to make the acquisition of licences easier for members of the business community facing a growing threat of extortion with waning trust in the law-enforcement agencies’ capability to rid them of the menace.
Leaders of the business community said they had held several meetings with the authorities to devise a strategy for the security of the life and property of the traders. Apart from arm licences, a recent meeting between the police authorities and business leaders also agreed on a few points that both sides saw as ‘a breakthrough in materialising of promised measures’.
“A 500-strong police force has been sanctioned for deployment in the city markets,” said an official. “Similarly, the government has agreed to bear the cost of closed-circuit television cameras installation in most markets while the Rangers would step up security measures for two major markets of the city, and that arrangement would be replicated in other commercial areas later.”
He said the traders’ association had also agreed to contribute finances to enhancing security systems of markets. However, the most significant is the unprecedented interests among the traders in acquiring arms licences as they have approached their respective associations to get the legal document.
“Under the understanding with the government, we will recommend traders for arms licences,” said Ateeq Meer, the chief of the All Karachi Tajir Ittehad, a common platform of more than 300 city markets and an active body that campaigned against extortion threat that led to a complete shutdown only last week.
“We have so far received some 300 requests from traders of different markets and the number is growing with each passing day. We have not yet forwarded the applications to the officials concerned as we are first verifying the credentials of the applicants on our own.”
He also confirmed that at their recent meetings with senior police and government officials measures were finalised for city markets and the authorities had agreed to move in coordination with the traders and they would not take any decision on their own.
Officials said they believed that the renewed cooperation between the traders and law-enforcers would help reduce extortion complaints as the proactive policing and cooperation by the traders had started yielding positive results. The acting city police chief and additional inspector general of the crime investigation department, Ghulam Shabbir Shaikh, earlier this week promised to introduce proactive policing, especially in the business districts where extortion-related killings had been taking place over the past several weeks. But he stopped short of saying that shoot-on-sight orders had been issued.
“Coordination channels have also been set up to keep communication straight with all business bodies, including the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Association of Builders and Developers,” said Sharfuddin Memon, the adviser to the Sindh home department.
“There is definitely a surge in requests for arm licences by traders which would be entertained on recommendation of their respective bodies. The common objective is to enhance security arrangements with mutual cooperation and understanding.”