• MQM-P seeks Centre’s intervention ‘before it’s too late’
• Says snatching of cell phones becomes multi-billion rupees ‘crime industry’
• Wahab says Muttahida doing politics in the name of street crime

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Monday questioned the role of police in curbing the menace of street crime and said that snatching of cell phones had become a multi-billion rupees industry in the metropolis and apparently criminals had been enjoying patronage from law enforcers ‘due to high stakes’.

It also blamed the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in Sindh for conniving with criminals and warned the PPP that it could take to the streets if the law and order situation in Karachi was not improved.

However, the PPP took exception to the MQM-P’s invitation to the Centre in a provincial matter and accused it of “politicising” a public issue for its vested interests and

On Monday, MQM-P leaders Nasreen Jalil, nominated leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly Ali Khurshidi and others held a press conference and termed street crime in Karachi a Rs11bn “industry”.

They wanted the federal government to “move fast and make decision to intervene before it’s too late”, saying that the law and order in Karachi was worsening with each passing day and the situation was “slipping out of everyone’s hands”.

On an average, he claimed, the city witnessed snatching of some 1,000 cell phones everyday worth Rs30 million, which is around Rs10.80 billion annually. That, he added, made the “industry” a lucrative business both for the criminals as well as those who were supposed to stop them, that is, Sindh police.

He said street crime was “a racket” being operated from the city which contributed over 70 per cent in national exchequer and shared almost 95pc revenue of the total of the province. The value of the “industry” and “smooth operation” of the armed bandits, he said, raised many questions about the performance, impartiality and role of the police force in Karachi which “at times come under doubt.”

“Ultimately, when you see the situation of street crime and that police have failed to ensure security of the people, then a question emerges in the back of the mind: are they [Sindh police] facilitating this [street crimes] industry? It’s time to ponder,” said Mr Khurshidi.

In the first three months of 2024 alone, 59 people have lost their lives whereas 200 have been injured while resisting robbers across the city. During Ramazan alone, 19 people were killed by armed bandits in Karachi, where more than 6,700 incidents of snatching were recorded in the metropolis during the holy month.

The MQM-P leaders, while hinting at taking to the streets if the federal and provincial governments failed to pay heed to its concerns, also demanded compensations for the families of the victims of street crime.

“We have already filed a resolution in the Sindh Assembly against these crimes and whenever the session is summoned, you would see us putting our case strongly,” he said. “We have already raised this issue in the National Assembly. And we ask the federal government as well as to when they would intervene in this situation? Are you waiting for more people to die or the situation slips out of hands?”, he asked.

Expressing her concerns, senior MQM-P leader Nasrin Jalil said that the metropolis was actually “stormed” by armed bandits and Karachiites had never felt so helpless in front of those criminals.

“The people here are tired of carrying dead bodies. It is not in our power to stop the anger of the people,” she said. “On the other hand, we believe that the government should announce compensation for those who have been killed in street crime incidents. Many of them were sole breadwinners of their families. The government should make it a policy to take care of the families of those who fall victim to street crimes.”

PPP reaction

Meanwhile, the PPP-led Sindh government reacted strongly to the MQM-P’s claims and allegations.

Minutes after the party’s press conference, Karachi Mayor Barrister Murtaza Wahab Siddiqi and Sindh Minister Nasir Shah issued separate statements, calling the MQM-P’s claims an attempt of “damage control” through fake claims as it was facing “disintegration.”

“It’s an old issue of the MQM-P,” said Barrister Wahab, who’s also the spokesman of the Sindh government. “Whenever the party faces crisis and disintegration, it comes under panic and starts doing strange things. The MQM-P allegations are nothing but point scoring in the name of street crime,” he said.

“The Sindh government is committed to eliminate crimes both in rural and urban Sindh. Even today [Monday], the home minister and Sindh IG are in Larkana, chairing a meeting to plan action against criminals in the rural areas,” he added.

Both Mayor Wahab and Minister Nasir Shah questioned the policy of the MQM-P which, he said, on one hand demanded empowered local government system and power at grassroots level and on the other asked the federal government to intervene for restoration of law and order.

“The MQM-P has always pursued a politics of hatred and the party is politically isolated. The people of Karachi still remember the days of loot, plunder and oppression,” they added.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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