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KARACHI, Jan 9: With a number of illegal cabins and concrete structures inscribed with names of those wielding influence in the area, the Karachi fish harbour continues to face a security threat from these encroachments which are a haven for wanted criminals, armed gangsters, drug peddlers and anti-social elements in the absence of effective security arrangements, it emerged on Wednesday when an operation was launched to clear the navigational channel of inactive vessels.

Well aware of security risks being posed to the harbour that has been declared a vital installation by the interior ministry, the Karachi Fish Harbour Authority and the fisheries department have repeatedly requested to the law-enforcement agencies and the home department to establish at least three pickets of Rangers in the area, but no such step has been taken till date.

In the situation, the KFHA after taking the Fishermen Co-operative Society, Marine Fisheries Department, Maritime Security Agency and Sindh Trawlers Owners Association on board launched the operation to remove only abandoned, idle and sunken boats from the heavily congested channel, where thousands of small and large boats anchor against its capacity to handle 350 vessels only. “We didn’t face much resistance today as we had apprised the stakeholders of the operation last month,” said KFHA Operations Director Anees Soomro.

“It may take us two to three weeks to complete the exercise, as boats can’t be moved currently due to a low tide,” he added.

However, officials said, land grabbing remained the main factor for the deteriorating security situation at the harbour that had become a hub of criminal activities ranging from abduction to drug selling, to snatching of cellphones, money and other valuables.

In a fresh survey, sources said, the KFHA had identified dozens of illegal structures, including some warehouses, and prepared a list specifying the names of encroachers, total area of illegally occupied land and types of business being run there. They added that the unauthorised shops and other structures were not only causing operational difficulties for the authority and depriving it of its revenue.

While a major operation needed to vacate the government land could not be executed without the assistance from law-enforcement agencies, several requests for the deployment of Rangers and establishment of pickets yielded no result, the officials added.It is noteworthy that only a small number of KFHA security guards are deputed at the three gates of the harbour and even those guards have not been provided with weapons.

When KFHA Managing Director Abdul Ghani Jokhio was asked what alternative security arrangements they would have if the request for the establishment of Rangers’ pickets was not granted, he said that the authority would have to hire the services of a private security firm.

In a letter (KFHA/2318/2012) written to the livestock and fisheries secretary, the KFHA MD had explained the situation and reiterated the demand for regular deployment of Rangers. He stated: “The situation is deteriorating day by day, incidents of extortion, abduction, drugs selling, display of sophisticated weapons, illegal activities, snatching of mobile phones, money and other valuables from harbour users are on the rise.

“The KFHA is making all-out efforts to cope with this alarming situation in the harbour and simultaneously continuously apprising all the law-enforcement agencies concerned about the situation. However, the situation at the harbour persists.

“The then livestock and fisheries secretary had also apprised the situation to the additional chief secretary home department of Sindh government vide letter no (PS/Secy/L&F/KFA/2012) dated Jan 19th, 2012 but no development took place.

“Since the KFHA is trying its best to deliver but under the circumstances KFHA could not achieve the goals, hence deployment of Rangers at the Karachi Fish Harbour is essential to avoid any further untoward incident.

“It is therefore requested that the home department may be requested to take timely steps for regular deployment of Rangers for the check post which not only help to maintain security of business community but also help in implementation of the government policies within the harbour.”

Asked about the matters related to the harbour security and requests for Rangers’ deployment, the additional chief secretary (home), Waseem Ahmed, told Dawn that police were there to provide security at the fish harbour.

He said that Rangers could not be deployed everywhere, as they were already engaged in law and order duties across the city. Now in view of voters’ list verification, the law-enforcement agencies would have additional responsibilities, he added.