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All one can say is that the mafia groups are the untouchables

Oct 10 - 16, 2005

Justice (Retd) Hazik-ul-Khairi, in his presentation at the seminar on the "Role of society in eradicating corruption", organized by National Accountability Bureau (Sindh) recently in Karachi, lamented the unbridled power of people with influence, whom he described as various mafias. In a speech laced with examples of his personal efforts in resolving assorted issues as Provincial Ombudsman (Sindh), he very boldly stated that these are forceful and tough entities and they can get away with just about everything.

The honourable jurist mentioned the 'power' of the owners of illegal jewelry factories spread in apartments and small stores in Karachi's Saddar area. These factories emit lethal elements in the atmosphere resulting in an abnormal increase in asthma and tuberculosis cases, especially among children dwelling around these factories. He talked about mini Mafia groups at the old Sabzi Mandi (fruit and vegetable market) and disclosed that it was a Herculean task to get them out and relocate on the Super Highway. Thankfully, this old market is now a fabulous 19-acre park, courtesy Pakistan Army.

The ex-Ombudsman also talked about the power of private school owners who do not care to register and give hoot to the Education Department regarding the fixation of school fees and other charges. He also said that many public places have been encroached by various sects who build mosques in a haphazard mode. Moreover, he said that even police officers maliciously erect makeshift police stations wherever they want. Of course, the actual owners of the property run from here to there frantically trying to get the law-enforcers to obey the law and vacate their properties.

To add to what Justice Khairi elaborated in his inspiring talk, one must not forget the power of the Tanker Mafia. The neglect of Karachi by policymakers nestled in the cozy offices of Islamabad, especially in the matter of water, has made these water tanker operators Mussolini, Hitler, and Idi Amin rolled into one. These tankers have irresponsibly ravaged the roads in SITE industrial estate. The operators charge huge amount for water that is usually sub-soil, and they deliver whenever they feel so, and they also do not care if the streets of Karachi get wet and slippery due to the constant dripping from their leaky valves.

The textile fabric manufacturers, of course, are aware of the imported fabric mafia, a group so extremely powerful, influential, and strong, that the CBR hierarchy is as afraid of them as the people in Thakur's village in the Indian blockbuster movie Sholay were afraid of Gabbar Singh, the ruthless desperado. CBR officers literally plead with businessmen not to even mention their names in the hallowed halls of CBR. "King 52" and "Silky Textiles" (one can deduce their names thru Urdu translations) are well-known for under-invoicing and mis-declaring imports, and in the process making bales of moolah because of various SROs conjured up by CBR have leaks as large as the Niagara Falls. Meantime, CBR people continue to look the other way and ensure that fabric manufacturers do not even whisper the names of this mafia even in hush-tones.

Then there is the Dry Ports Mafia. A nexus of varied Mafia groups controls the 10 Dry Ports. The wheels of the Dry Ports are lubricated by a highly-flavored blend of oodles of money, lots of influence, and the precise dosage of extortion and intimidation. Knock on the right door (in fact any portal in these Dry Ports) and bring in anything under the sun. Duties, Sales Tax, Advance Income Tax, and other such levies are petty items that could be ignored or are entered in the register in the same manner as putting just a dab of Fair & Lovely trying to make the repugnant crone look ravishing. The government is contented that it is facilitating the businessmen. The actual outcome: numerous jobs lost because of the influx of under-invoiced, mis-declared, or smuggled goods into the country. Marvelous strategy to alleviate poverty.

Of course, in any urban city, innumerable members of many different types of Mafia make life miserable for the harried denizens. One may say that elected representatives duly chosen by the populace run the City District Government. These untrained, unknowing, petty-minded representatives learn the hard way to deal with the plethora of roadblocks erected by the Mafia. They soon know how to play ball with them and everything becomes hunky-dory for those who came thru the process of devolution of authority. Once they know the rules of the game, once they agree to pay tithe to the Mafia dons, and once they reverse the roles from being people's representatives to adopting the unanswerable role of rulers, the system starts working beautifully.

There are billboards and hoardings everywhere. How many of these are legal and tax-paid? The Mafia ensures that money goes in fantasy bank accounts rather than the Treasury of CDGK. Go to KDA and try to get a file moved on merit. Only Bozo the Clown would venture there with this assurance that his case would be decided on priority without greasing the palms. The PTCL lineman still gives the same excuse the consumer got in the early Fifties that "pair is not available". No use mentioning KESC and KWSB. Why regurgitate?

One should not forget the premier Mafia group known all over the country as the Qabza Mafia. These land encroachers and usurpers are a force to reckon with. Families have been financially and morally destroyed trying to oust a Qabza group from their properties. These Qabza groups occupy graveyards, railway land, industrial estates, and private property. Here too, the long hand of the law shies from touching them. Probably, this long hand protects them. Who knows. There are laws on the statute books but who cares. Many cases only require the permission of the Provincial Chief Minister. Alas, they seldom have time to look at the files, and thus a mountain of files and cases swell up waiting for the Sahib to put his John Hancock. Time just drags on. The Qabza group does a little Samba. The band plays on.

All one can say is that the Mafia groups are the untouchables. Al Capone, the Chicago Don would have loved to be in Karachi circa 2005. Maybe, just maybe, Eliot Ness, the US Federal Agent who headed The Untouchables team and made life miserable for Capone in the 1930s, would have been his partner and not his nemesis in this metropolitan city.


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