Close to 100 Ghee mills across the country have been shut down in protest to the transporters’ arson attack of setting on fire four of their NLC (National Logistics Cell) tankers carrying cooking oil from Port Qasim. The mill owners were resisting the transporters’ demand to hire their services instead of NLC. For one thing, it has yet again brought to limelight the muscle of the transport mafia and the kind of unlawful tactics they can resort to. Their act must be condemned because first, the mills are well within their right to hire NLC trucks since their rates are much cheaper and secondly the chance of ghee containers getting stolen is also remote. There is also a Sindh High Court order giving them the liberty to have the transport service of their choice.

This time around it appears the mill owners are determined that they won’t let themselves be dictated by the transporters who are reported to be backed by major political parties based in Karachi. Yet the way they have responded is also a bit harsh because eventually it would be the general public that would suffer. They can ask the government for security but that is where their protest must stop. Reportedly, the millers have held off the supply of cooking oil to the market indefinitely, which in a few days’ time can cause the prices to sky rocket. Given the inflationary spiral and all that, this price hike will simply make it more difficult for the average man to survive. It would be cruel of the mills to make the masses pay through their nose, and the only difference between them and the unruly transporters would be that of methodology.

However, the entire case is a glaring example of absence of good governance as well as rule of law. There is certainly no check on the unruly section within the transporters’ community and others of their ilk. For instance, the kind of blackmail that the mill owners are subjected to is literally rampant throughout Pakistan’s commercial hub. Although the discovery yet again that the transporters who set ablaze the NLC trucks enjoyed political support fails to shock, it is quite a shame. It appears politics in Karachi is now being practiced through the point of the gun. Most of the times such mafias’ criminal acts come to public notice, the dots always connect with the local political groups. It is a symbiotic relationship, which has grown with the passage of time. The criminals use their political godfathers to help them get off the hook whenever caught while the political and ethnic groups use them as mercenaries in turf wars. Little wonder that a great number of business, industrialists and even commonplace shopkeepers are migrating to other relatively safer parts of the country.

The provincial government must put its act together and take measures including a clamp down on the errant transporters to restore the confidence of the millers, lest the country should witness another debilitating crisis.