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Traders threaten strike over extortion

KARACHI, Dec 13: Traders have threatened to go on strike against growing extortion complaints, which often lead to gun and bomb attacks on businessmen and their commercial facilities, if the government fails to deliver within the next three days.

Holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans against targeted killings of traders and extortion activities, a number of traders took to the M.A. Jinnah Road during the second half of the day.

“The traders have lost their patience,” said Ateeq Meer of Karachi Tajir Ittehad, who led the protest demonstration that kept the traffic on the city’s one of the busiest routes suspended for over an hour. “We took up this issue over a dozen times with the authorities. From the Sindh governor to the Sindh police chief, we have received promises from everyone but the situation is worsening with each passing day.”

He cited recent bomb attacks on baker’s and transporter’s houses in the Manghopir area and killing of one trader in Light House market as signs of a situation ‘slipping out of everyone’s hand’.

“Today’s (Thursday) protest was not for a photo session instead we have clearly conveyed and convinced the business community that we will go for an extreme move after Sunday if the situation doesn’t improve within the next 72 hours,” said Mr Meer.

Two improvised explosive devices went off outside the houses of a businessman and a transporter in Manghopir’s Mianwali Colony on Wednesday, causing damage to the two houses and neighbouring properties. Police said it seemed that the attacks were carried out by the extortion mafia after

the businessman and the transporter had been threatened to pay Rs20 million and Rs5 million, respectively.

After hand grenade and cracker blasts at shops, warehouses and commercial facilities, the killings of traders are seen as a new trend apparently linked to extortion activities.

Later in the evening, a group of traders met Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan. They were given assurances for enhanced security measures in markets and ample security for the traders who were under threat.

“We need to beat the menace through our unity and better coordination among traders and law-enforcement agencies. For that purpose a comprehensive security plan must be devised for the city markets,” he said.

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