KARACHI, Jan 31: The business community's complaints of growing extortion and threatening calls were taken up by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah at a meeting on law and order on Monday. Interior Minister Rahman Malik co-chaired the meeting, which was informed by the capital city police officer that in January alone 125 people were murdered, including 37 killed in targeted attacks.

The chief minister ordered the law-enforcement agencies to ensure that no harassment was caused to businessmen in this economic hub of the country.

The matter was taken up at a meeting which was told that there had been complaints by many businessmen that they had received 'chits' seeking payment of certain amounts as protection money and threats of dire consequences in case of non-payment.

Many businessmen were reportedly considering relocating their businesses away from Karachi and were holding back further investment in the city.

The chief minister also decided to monitor the situation personally to ensure that the business community was given full protection and confidence to work in Karachi.

He also directed the chief secretary and the inspector-general of Sindh and the Rangers to take stringent measures to overcome this problem of the business community.

He also sought the federation's help to provide them with real-time intelligence and also help them through the cyber crime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency to identify the telephones of individuals involved in extortion.

The meeting appreciated the professional law enforcement actions by the Sindh Rangers and police. It was observed that the law and order situation in Karachi was one of the main concerns of the Sindh government and claimed that concerted efforts were being made to improve the situation in Karachi.

It was also stated that the Rangers were specially requisitioned by the Sindh government, particularly for Karachi, and the government had empowered the Rangers, vide Section 5 of the ATA 1997, to undertake this task.

It was decided at the meeting that actions against suspects involved in targeted-killing and all criminals would continue, irrespective of their political affiliation.

The CCPO of Karachi in his briefing informed the meeting that during January 125 persons were murdered, of whom 37 lost their lives to targeted killings. He said for the detection of targeted killing cases, 64 suspects were arrested and 80 cases were detected in 2010, whereas 29 suspects were arrested and 30 cases detected in 2011.

He said with regard to the doctors' killing cases during 2010-2011, 10 FIRs were registered, of which eight cases were solved and 13 suspects arrested. He further said that there had been 1,956 encounters and 692 gangs busted while 90 dacoits were killed and 2,332 dacoits/criminals arrested.

The CCPO added that 36 police personnel were killed and 105 wounded.

Business community's concerns

The business community has conveyed its anger and dismay to the government over the law and order situation, threatening strike if its concerns were not allayed.

This was spelt out by Siraj Kassim Teli of the Karachi Chambers of Commerce and Industry when Interior Minister Rahman Malik accompanied by the MQM's deputy convener Dr Farooq Sattar on Monday met representatives of the KCCI to discuss their concerns about the law and order situation in the city.

It was decided that a crisis cell would be formed in the KCCI which would have representatives of the police/Rangers/ ISI, political parties as well as that of the KCCI.

Mr Teli, speaking at the meeting, said: “We are sick and tired of hearing that a solution would be provided whereas none was coming.”

He said the KCCI represented the Karachi business community which had a major contribution to the national exchequer.

Zubair Motiwala, adviser to the chief minister on investments, said political stability had a direct link with economic stability. The acts of extortions were on the rise and whether it was a businessman or a common man, no one was safe in the prevailing worst law and order situation.

KCCI President Muhammad Saeed Shafiq reminded Mr Malik of the promises he had made at a Governor's House meeting, which he said were never honoured.

Mr Shafiq called for the solution of the problem of law and order, saying that the business community was extremely harassed and if no solution was found soon, they would go on strike.