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The unchecked and incessant wave of auto snatchings/thefts in the city has also taken a heavy toll on the insurance industry

By SYED M. ASLAM
Feb-18  24, 2002

On the surface Karachi wears the look of the most fortified city in the world. In reality, however, the heavy presence of police and paramilitary Rangers at every nook and corner of the city fails to make even slightly discourage the armed snatchings and thefts of cars and two-wheelers costing billions of rupees to a people who have seemed to lost all hope.

Every car and motorcycle owner in Karachi has either lost a vehicle to snatching/theft at least once or know someone personally who has experienced the shocking, and at times horrible, experience. Auto snatchings and theft have so much become a part of Karachites' lives that they treat as something routine, something normal.

According to statistics compiled by Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) between January 1997 and January 2002 a total of 24,013 cars were either snatched or stolen in Karachi, half of which still remain un-recovered. Last month a total of 329 cars were snatched/stolen in Karachi of which just 145 or 44 per cent still remain untraced. During the same period a total of 29,715 two-wheelers were snatched and stolen, less than 27 per cent were recovered. A total of 557 motorcycles were snatched/stolen in the city last month of which only 141 or 25 per cent were recovered.

On any given day an average of 10 cars and 19 motorcycles are either snatched or stolen in Karachi. The unchecked, uncared for and un-bemoaned practice continues unabated failing to draw the attention that it deserves. For all practical purposes the Karachi Police has left the car and motorcycle owners at the mercy of bands of robbers and thieves to select their victims at their will, and convenience.

Apart from the inherent dangers that auto snatchings and thefts pose to the physical well being, and at times threats to the very lives, of the people the menace is also depriving Karachites billions in rupees. A crude estimate is enough to highlight the huge financial costs that auto snatchings and thefts are causing to an unprotected populace.

Sources in the insurance industry told PAGE that the bulk of the cars snatched/stolen in Karachi comprise newer versions due primarily to the fact that they fetch better prices in other provinces, and in many cases also find their way outside the country. Instances of cars snatched/stolen in Karachi recovered from the possession of influential politicians, bureaucrats and tribal leaders have been documented in the press. There are also reported incidents of a tribal lord in Balochistan not only refused to handover a snatched car to a party of Karachi Police but also threatened it with his gang of armed guards.

Coming back to financial costs, car and motorcycle snatchings and thefts mean a whopping Rs 4.5 billion loss to the Karachites in last five years. Keeping in mind that car snatchers and thieves usually target comparatively newer models, the value of over 12,000 un-recovered cars since January 1997 translates into a loss of 3.6 billion rupees collectively. The calculation is based on the assumption that the average market value of these vehicles is Rs 300,000 each. The figure, though crude, is and should be enough to awaken the concerned authorities from their slumber to take measures to at least help cut the auto snatchings and thefts in Karachi if not altogether eradicate it. As already stated of the 29,715 motorcycles snatched/stolen in Karachi some 21,771 still remain un-recovered. The percentage of recovery of motorcycles is much lower than the car because the two-wheelers are much more easy to disassemble and get rid off piece-by-piece in the spare parts markets. The value of these 21,771 un-recovered two-wheelers totals Rs 870 million assuming that the average price of each of them was Rs 40,000.

The unchecked and incessant wave of auto snatchings/thefts in the city has also taken a heavy toll on the insurance industry resulting in unaffordable comprehensive insurance tariffs for the people on the one hand and uneconomic margins for the companies. The high loss-ratio have forced many companies to restrict comprehensive auto insurance business to corporate clients and their employees. In the recent past, a number of insurance companies refused to entertain comprehensive auto insurance, particularly two-wheeler, business from individuals preferring to provide it only to their corporate clients and their employees.

Should the menace of auto snatchings and thefts be allowed to continue unchecked depriving Karachites one of essential human rights the right to protect property? The answer can only be in a loud negative.

Box 1

Statistics of Car Snatchings and Thefts since 1997

Year

Total Snatched/Stolen

Total Recovered

Recovery ate

1997

5,730

3,002

52.39%

1998

6,811

2,935

43.09%

1999

3,698

2,034

55.15%

2000

3,215

1,920

59.72%

2001

4,230

1,965

45.48%

Jan.'02

329

145

44.07


Box 2

Statistics of Motor-cycles Snatchings/Thefts since 1997

Year

Total Snatched/Stolen

Total recovered

Recovery Rate

1997

7,241

1,746

24.11%

1998

7,594

2,016

26.51%

1999

4,117

1,223

29.71%

2000

4,535

1,389

30.63%

2001

5,661

1,429

25.24%

Jan.'02

557

141

25.31%

Source: CPLC