KARACHI – Both the political influence and law-enforcement agencies have failed to ensure protection to the business community from the extortion mafia that had has an alarming presence in the cosmopolitan city.

According to sources, a number of extortion cartels have emerged in the port city in the past couple of years, besides those which the alleged police inaction had been keeping alive.

“Since the majority of these extortion rackets, most notably the Lyari gangsters, enjoy political patronage, they do not know the fear of being apprehended by the LEAs,” said the sources who wished to stay anonymous.

Interestingly, the Lyari gangsters, after years of fight in the constituent town (of Karachi), suddenly appeared as a political wing of the ruling PPP. The wing was named as the Lyari Aman Committee and later the People’s Aman Committee.

Although the government banned the committee, it could not wipe out the gangsters even through the drive of surgical operation, compounding the problems of the citizens, particularly businessmen and traders.

There’s barely any commercial area, where shopkeepers have not been paying to the extortionists for the protection of their lives and businesses.

With its origin in Lyari, the menace of extortion is now asserting its control on the markets in the downtown and its surrounding areas, including Nazimbad, Liaquatbad, Golimar, Hyderi, Sohrab Goth, Safora Goth and Bahadurabad.

The menace of extortion continues with an alarming regularity, despite the government’s and police’s claims to have done enough against the mafia.

The recent killing of a shopkeeper, namely Zubair of a beef shop, in Nazimabad No 3 over his denial to pay Rs0.5 million was a reflection of “our LEAs’ repeated security assurances to the business community,” added the sources. A similar case was reported last week, in which, Shahzaib Farooqi, a young man running a bookstore in Urud Bazaar, was gunned down over his refusal to pay Rs0.5 million as extortion money. In this incident, the extortionists-cum-killers even harassed Farooqi’s father and threatened to kill his other sons should he failed to pay. Besides, there are numbers of reported incidents involving publicly killing of shopkeepers putting up resistance against the extortionists. A police official seeking anonymity said that the political-sheltering and uncertain political conditions were the major causes of the mushroom growth of extortion rackets. The menace became an organised crime when the Lyari gangsters became politicians, he said, adding that “the formation of the defunct aman committee legitimised murders, kidnapping, extortion, gambling and all illegal activities in Lyari. Ayazudin, a shopkeeper of Liaquatabad Market, told TheNation that his brother-in-law, namely Usmani, got a phone call for paying Rs2.5 million extortion money.

There are many traders like Usmani being intimidated by the extortionists through phone calls and extortion slips, but the government and police seem helpless in this respect.