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Over 12 Empress Market shops looted amid Muharram security measures

Over 12 Empress Market shops looted amid Muharram security measures

KARACHI: At least a dozen Empress Market shops sealed by law enforcement agencies as part of security measures for the Muharram processions were looted late Sunday night, officials said.

It was a third such theft over the past one month, as previously shops near Tibet Centre and Urdu Bazaar in the same vicinity of Karachi South district had been struck by thieves.

While shopkeepers claimed that over 30 shops were looted, Preedy SHO Aurangzeb Khattak said 12 shuttered shops other than some small cabins or pushcarts were looted. It was estimated that around Rs100,000 cash was taken away, he said, explaining that most shop owners did not keep cash in shops or cabins as the market was being sealed for three days as part of a security plan.

Karachi-South SSP Saqib Ismail Memon said there was no evidence that the thieves entered the market by scaling walls, because the main doors of the market remained closed. “The theft incident appeared to be strange, which gave rise to suspicions about involvement of someone from inside,” he said. The officer explained that some thieves might have stayed there and remained unnoticed late Sunday night at the time of the market closure for three days.

Another possibility appeared to be the involvement of the watchmen, the SSP said, adding that two watchmen were detained for interrogation. One of them had been recently hired, he added.

However, the theft at over 12 shops in the main market of Saddar shortly after they had been sealed has put a question mark over the efficacy of the elaborate plan being implemented for the security of the main processions on 9th and 10th of Muharram in Karachi.

Investigation into previous cases

About progress of investigation into the last month theft cases, SSP Memon said some suspects originally hailing from Afghanistan had been taken into custody. “They basically work as scavengers in daytime. They have criminal record and theft cash at night after proper reconnaissance of the markets,” the officer said.

He said it was strange that despite millions of rupees business at these markets, traders had not installed any CCTV camera that could have helped police investigators to find clue to the identity of the robbers.

Earlier on Sept 9, around 22 shops were looted in Prime Centre near Tibet Centre. Two weeks later more than a dozen shops were looted in Urdu Bazaar where unidentified suspects broke their locks and took away Rs54,000 cash.

Taking notice of the latest Empress Market theft, Sindh police chief A.D. Khowaja directed the deputy inspector general of police of Karachi South district to immediately submit a detailed inquiry report to him. He said details of the theft should be sought from the representatives of the market association and affected shopkeepers and in view of their statements, arrest of the culprits must be ensured with the help of expert investigators.

Published in Dawn October 11th, 2016

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