Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Target Killing in Karachi: Destroying Market Norms and Taboos

Lawlessness in Karachi is not something new . After the ominous incident of 1984 when Bushra Zaidi and other four students from a local college died in a brutal accident, the city has never seen peace.

However, according to the natives of Karachi, with the advent of new mafia players in the city , and owing to President Zardari's reconciliation politics, the situation is worst than ever.

Karachi has now become the ground for the mafia tax collection wars. Territories and boundaries are not yet well defined , and mafias fight with each other territorial battles. They kill each others workers for transgressing boundaries. Citizens are also being victimized, and every now and then a trader or a common citizen is victimized for this indecision. Workers of two or more mafias demand money and the poor trader or citizen does not know to whom the tax should be paid. And this indecision proves fatal.

Even if the decision is made to select one out of the two as the recipient of tax , the other in its anger kills the person.

At times mafias increase their demand and ask for huge sums of money from a market, resulting in non payment and then massacre.

This situation has caused serious threats to the poor citizens of Karachi, and no one is listening to them. Government also collects tax . So, the citizens of Karachi have to pay taxes to everyone, yet these tax collectors do not care for basic market and business norms and values. Though it is said that mafia has it own business ethics, but in Karachi all the principles , even of evil marketing are kept aside.

Once a citizen has paid the tax , his life should be protected; this is the law mafia follows everywhere in the world, but in Karachi even this is violated. The basic market norm, or rather a taboo in a established market is this: give everybody his due share.

So, if in a transaction, a trader has paid the price for his life and security, then he should be granted the right to live and security. Mafia is selling a product; they sell security to the citizens from a danger and threat which they themselves are. But , in transactions with mafia, common citizen despite paying the money does not get security, and this is a deviation from the most basic market norm. Citizens are not getting anything in against their money.

If Mafias continue this attitude, people will no longer believe them and even their own basic interests will be threatened.

Furthermore, tax rates should not be increased irrationally. One such incident , according to some citizens , took place in the scrap market of Shershah, where mafia demanded huge sums , and when shopkeepers, unable to arrange for the money, did not pay that amount , they opened straight fire in the crowded market leaving dozens of innocent people dead.

Earlier this week Hindu community protested and blocked the business hub of Karachi, they were protesting against the murder of a 16 year old boy who was killed by the tax collecting mafia. They were saying that even if they pay the tax their life is not safe , and they are no longer able to continue living in this situation.

Karachi needs a new social contract, for the government is quite unable to establish its writ . Political parties in Karachi have demanded for military intrusion in the situation , for they don't believe that civilian administration is able to handle this situation.

For some even military interference is not the proper solution , and these issues should be resolved through proper negotiations.

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