KARACHI - Sindh government on Thursday failed to remove the decades-old encroachments illegally set up in the downtown of the city. 

Following the directives of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Anti-Encroachment Cell and South Zone police on Thursday launched a crackdown against the illegal encroachments, particularly in the downtown.

As the crackdown began, the vendors staged a protest and resisted by pelting the anti-encroachment team with stones and erecting barricades to block the roads.

In retaliation, police baton-charged the vendors and also arrested around a dozen pushcart owners.

The Anti-Encroachment Cell personnel also took away hundreds of carts and tables while many others removed their stuff before the operation began.

A rough estimate suggests that there are 300,000 vendors in Karachi, while south zone is considered a highly lucrative zone where around 30000 vendors run their businesses on footpaths and even on the main roads.

It’s pertinent to mention here that the concerned authorities had briefed the CM about the parking mafia.

The CM had been told that influential people supported the mafia and each vendor paid Rs150 to these people daily.

Sources privy to the matter revealed to this scribe that the concerned authorities, including police, traffic police, Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) and a dominant political party in a particular locality were all involved in the business.

A pushcart owner, wishing to remain anonymous, told The Nation that the concerned police station authorised a beater to collect money on daily or weekly basis.

He said that one vendor daily collected Rs 100 for a police station, 50 rupees for head mohrar, 50 rupees for traffic police, particularly in Sadder Town and Rs50 for KMC.

He said that one man among the vendors was responsible for collecting the amount from all the vendors and distributed it among the different stakeholders.

He said that political parties were not directly involved in such business, but local leaders of dominant parties placed their own stalls and rent them out for their routine expenses.

He said that during the tenures of previous local body governments, former mayor Mustafa Kamal used his powers to remove encroachments from the downtown, but could not succeed. He added that cosmetic operations against the venders were a routine. He disclosed that the concerned department had informed the vendors about the operation and also suggested stopping business for few days.

“I have seen hundreds of similar operations in the city in the last couple of years, but vendors and parking mafia co-exist,” he concluded.