Karachi’s Industrialists, and “Institutionalized” Extortion; an unbiased perspective – by Furqan Ahmed

Karachi is often referred to as the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. In reality it is actually the heart of Pakistan’s economy. Home to over 20 million people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, Karachi is a place where everyone from your daily wage worker, industrialists and transporters all look for the same thing; livelihood.


A recent strike against extortion in Karachi

For the last 25 years or so Karachi’s diverse population, despite whichever government has come to power has been home to the MQM. Karachi’s largest party as they claim to be, has been a part of every government coalition since 1985. Many people give MQM the credit of being “the owners of Karachi” as well as being the party with the “Mandate” to run and operate Karachi. Both are claims, which can be challenged by independent analysts who will argue that if polls in Karachi are carried out under strict military scrutiny there is no way that the MQM will emerge as the single majority party of Karachi.

Being in the corridors of power for over the last two decades, it is important to note that minus the government that came into being after the 2008 elections, most of Sindh’s important ministries in MQM dominated governments have always remained with them. This includes the ministry of Industries and Production (Sindh), which is currently being headed by Rauf Siddiqui, and in the previous Musharraf- government, was looked after by Adil Siddiqui.   

Before departing on his sick leave, Sindh Home Minister Dr. Zulfikar Ali Mirza again blasted the MQM and asked industrialists to come forward and swear on the Holy Quran as to who the real extortionists in Karachi are. This was not the first time Dr. Mirza made this demand, but this was definitely his most vocal attempt at taking Karachi’s industrialists on board in this fight against the extortion mafia and it’s backers. However, previously when Dr. Mirza addressed the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry in December 2010, he categorically stated that members of the Chamber as well as members of different trade associations, were scared of Karachi’s biggest political party and went a step further to say these Trade associations give money and donations to the largest political party in Karachi. Guess what? He’s not wrong! Even if it was a very generalized statement.

I belong to a family of industrialists that has been carrying out business activities in Karachi since the late 1950’s and I can personally attest to this claim of the Home Minister. However, it is important to note that most of these businessmen are those who share the limelight and have business stakes in Karachi, which are very high.  Collecting donations willfully or forcefully is something that is not new to Karachi’s business community or it’s residents. Over the last decade or so after learning the tricks of the trade the MQM has derived strategies, which make it easier for them to collect money without bringing attention towards them. An example of this can be taken from the tenure of Mr. Adil Siddiqui, while he was Provincial Minister for Industries, Production and Transport the famous Korangi chemical pollution case, which involved Mr. Gharib, although many claim it was not only him that was responsible for the pollution, he did however face the wrath of the provincial government of that time.   A whole sum amount was taken from Mr. Gharib, to secure his bail and close the case, under the supervision of Mr. Adil Siddiqui. How can I forget the famous line the minister used “Mr. Gharib why do you worry? Look at me I have various cases ranging from Murder to robbery and I am a Minister”.

“Send the money and you will be okay”.  

Another example can be drawn from the present Minister of Industries and Production Mr. Rauf Siddiqui.  Various trade associations that need to hire legal consultants have been asked by him to appoint the man of his choice, who in return receives a salary from the association. All of this despite the fact that funds released to trade associations come from the government and reach the associations after changing and warming up a few hands.

It is of utmost importance that a clear line be drawn between this new trend of “Institutionalized Extortion” and the age-old trend of “extortion” which comes usually in the form of slips from various political parties as well as religious parties too.

Even though the common perception is majority of Karachi’s businessmen and their families support the MQM, this is a wrong perception. Majority of them usually keep their business interests in mind first when interacting with any politicians, regardless of their party affiliation. They are equally concerned about the deteriorating law and order situation in the metropolis just as their political counter parts are. Only difference is the resources to counter the deteriorating law and order situation do not rest with businessmen. They rest with the government of the day.

As Dr. Mirza said after his application for sick leave had been accepted, that after he comes back he will try to unite Karachiites on one platform for the sake of their children and future generations. This is an honorable gesture but will require a lot of work. All Karachiites should welcome this step. Pre dominantly it should involve providing extensive security to Karachi’s industrialists as well as industrial areas. 




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