KARACHI: Five men sit on chairs at the entrance to the makeshift rectangular enclosure formed with an iron chain. Nearby a lifter is parked facing a wall. The men seem unconcerned about the vehicles parked even next to the ‘no parking’ signs. People drive in and out their vehicles, but the five men do not budge.

All of a sudden they spring into action. Their lifter begins to purr, they cling to it and hurry to a parked car, lifts it and deposits in the enclosure. Then they bring more and more vehicles without being shouted at or hindered. When the enclosure is full, they wait for their victims, the car owners, who might have not expected that this could happen at a place such as the Cantonment Railway Station.

“When I took my family coming by a Lahore train out of the station and walked towards my car, I was flabbergasted to see my car missing from the place I had parked it,” said a middle-aged man followed by a porter, a woman and a couple of children. “I thought that after paying the fee at the entrance, it was safe to park the car inside.” However, he said, it did not take him to see his car as the accompanying porter told him what might have happened. He went to the spot, bickered with the men and paid them what they said was the fine for parking the car in the ‘no-parking area’.

People like him suffer daily. This racket is run near popular shopping centres, public offices such as the Passport Office, courts, etc.

Even on Iqbal Avenue, better known as main Clifton Road, which has shopping centres on its either side, cars are pulled away to the police station. Sometimes the sufferers are women. Imagine that when they come to the spot where they had parked their vehicles loaded with shopping bags, sometimes accompanied by children, their vehicle is gone.

Whereas the lifter at the Cantt Station said they waited for the car owner for 10 minutes to drive it away, those at the airport do not allow such a facility to the visitors. The moment the visitor leaves the car to see off their relatives, the traffic policemen there motion to the lifter operator, he takes the unsuspecting person’s moveable property to a reserved space in the airport’s parking lot. That place is real difficult to locate. The man there would demand a hefty sum to let the vehicle go. “I did not have the money. The ATM machines at the airport also did not work. So I had to deposit an important card of mine to get the vehicle back,” said a man who had suffered such an agony.

There seems no justification for inconveniencing the public for no fault of theirs to benefit a few individuals. Just a few personnel can shoo away the drivers where it is inevitable instead of putting them through a lot of trouble.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2018