Extortionists are learnt to have threatened seafood exporters of dire consequences if their demands were not met. “Extortionists can threaten any businessman at the harbour with impunity because of their unchallenged political clout,” sources said, adding that police were unwilling to take action against such ‘political’ activists.
According to the sources, exporters have received ‘chits’ bearing ‘demands’ for extortion money ranging between Rs 5 million and Rs 10 million. “Police insist that exporters should file written complaints if they (exporters) wanted action against nominated persons,” they said.
However, exporters are fearful of the politically-powerful extortionists, saying that any written complaints might get them killed. They said that police flatly refused to raid any political office on the basis of verbal complaints. “Extortionists know well about the business and all the people involved in it, as they have their offices inside the harbour,” they said, adding that outlaws were largely protected and exporters were forced to pay up.
A meeting of exporters and Sindh Fisheries Minister Zahid Ali Bhurgari was held at the harbour to solve the issue ended without yielding any results, sources claimed. “The Sindh Fisheries Minister just assured exporters that he would arrange a meeting with the Chief Minister, besides bringing other law-enforcement agencies into play, including Rangers,” the sources said. Exporters expressed the hope that the Sindh Chief Minister and his political team would somehow solve the matter on a permanent basis.
Sources said that the Chief Minister was now likely to get the DG Rangers and IG police involved to ‘settle’ the issue, instead of arresting the culprits. “Police are so far reluctant to take any action against elements identified by exporters as extortionists. Their (police’s) position is clear under the prevailing situation in the city no one can dare take action against outlaws in the metropolis,” sources maintained.
Seafood exporters contribute more than $300 million annually to the national exchequer and such threats may negatively impact the country’s fragile economy, a seafood exporter on the basis of anonymity said. Criticising the government’s inaction, he said that exporters had been facing threats and extortion demands for a long time. It seemed, he said, extortionists had support from government quarters.