Seafood exporters plan to seal their processing plants in protest against growing extortionist at the fish harbour as “lawlessness” is forcing them to abandon their businesses, sources said on Monday. “Outlaws are unleashed on exporters who rape Bengali immigrant women, beat up factory workers and rob them of their belongings, while the inactive police contribute to the growing lawlessness,” they added.
Extortionists enjoy strong political-backing and continue to issue threats to the seafood exporters, asking them to pay extortion, which ranges between Rs 5 million and Rs 10 million. Despite making several efforts to approach Chief Minister Sindh for protection of seafood exporters against the outlaws, there has been no response from any government department, the fisheries stakeholders said.
“The situation at the harbour is getting worse which pushes exporters to go on a strike at their growing insecurity and threat to businesses,” said Chairman Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association (Pakfea), Faisal Iftikhar. Officials of Karachi Fish Harbour Authority (KFHA) termed the extortion issue too “big”. “The KFHA always the demands of the government to deploy rangers at the harbour to subdue the outlaws and improve lawlessness,” they said.
Sources said the police are reluctant to clamp down on the well-organised outlaws who draw their support from the major ruling political party. “The PPP backs these extortionists,” they said. Faisal Iftikhar said: “the exporters had set a four-day deadline for the government which ends next Thursday to oust the criminals from the harbour, otherwise they would go on an indefinite strike.”
He said that if the law and order situation at the country’s largest fisheries did not improve in the four days, as the government officials had assured them, the seafood exporters would shut their factories. He said that the rangers were also reluctant to crack down on the outlaws. He regretted the CM Sindh’s attitude towards the seafood exporting sector, saying that “despite several attempts by exporters, the chief minister never turns up to hear their concerns”.
The KFHA officials said that the police were unable to cope with the law and order issues. They said that the government was expected to play a key role in restoring normality to the harbour. “There are hopes that seafood exporters will not go on strike and the situation is going to be better soon,” they said.
Faisal Iftikhar said that seafood exporters are now looking towards the other fisheries stakeholders including boat owners, fishermen and mole holders till Thursday to make a final decision on the strike. “Deep sea boats have been called back to the moorage at harbour by Thursday,” he added. The seafood exporters contribute over $300 million annually to the national exchequer.