Karachi: SIU team booked after extortion complaint
KARACHI: A police officer and two constables were on Friday booked under the anti-terror law after they were allegedly caught by Jama Cloth Market traders demanding protection money, officials and business leaders said. According to the traders, they saw three plain-clothes policemen engaged in a heated argument with a fellow trader and when they inquired about the matter, the policemen alleged that the man they were speaking to was involved in the ‘Hawala’ (illegal money transfer) trade.
The policemen intended to take the man away with them in their vehicle, the traders said.
ASP of the Mithadar police station Ali Asif quoted some of the traders as claiming that they knew the three policemen as they had earlier taken away another shopkeeper and let him off only after receiving extortion money.
“The traders also alleged that the policemen were associated with the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the police and they used to extort money from locals,” the ASP said, adding that the situation turned ugly when a scuffle broke out between the policemen and traders and the area police had to be called in.
Before the Aram Bagh police moved in, some of the angry traders had already thrashed the policemen — one of them later identified as assistant sub-inspector Muhammad Javed and the other two as constables Wasim Zaidi and Muzaffar Ali.
“The SIU men had parked their mobile van at some distance from the market. During the episode, the angry traders also tried to set it on fire but the police acted swiftly to save it,” the ASP added.
He said that ASI Javed and PC Zaidi had managed to escape when the Aram Bagh police personnel reached the scene. The traders had caught hold of PC Muzaffar Ali, who was handed over to the police,” he added.
“While efforts are on for the arrest of the two SIU men, the area police are in touch with the SIU in this regard,” the ASP said.
When contacted, a senior SIU official denied involvement of his colleagues in extortion, and claimed that the team was sent to detain a suspected Hawala dealer.
“That suspect, in fact, used his links and involved the traders to save his skin,” he claimed, and insisted that the suspect did run the illegal money transfer business from his shop in the Jama Cloth Market.
However, the official could not explain whether SIU was authorised to handle the Hawala or Hundi cases, a domain assigned to the special financial crime unit set up and activated only few weeks ago.
He also could not explain why the SIU team was so interested in busting the illegal money transfer racket when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was already handling the task and sought the area police assistance only in case of any hindrance.
The SIU argument also failed to cut ice with the police authorities. Sindh police chief Mushtaq Shah ordered suspension of all the three SIU officials ‘with immediate effect’ and called for a “free and transparent investigation into the very sensitive matter”.
“Efforts must be made to gather more facts about this very sensitive issue. The suspects do not deserve any sympathy just because they are policemen,” said a spokesman for the Sindh police chief.
Meanwhile, the Mithadar police registered a case (FIR 185/2012) under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act on the complaint of a Jama Cloth Market trader.