At 5.15 p.m. June 4, I stopped at Plaza, in front of the Polani Motors on Karachi’s busiest thoroughfare, the M.A. Jinnah Road, to have my car’s electric window repaired. Soon, I was mobbed by some seven to eight people, who insisted that I get some door rubbers installed. I refused but they started the work nevertheless.
Quickly, I found myself trapped, with these people doing all sorts of work on the car, not listening to my command, directions and pleadings. These people had me so placed that I could not run, scream or phone anybody, even though I was on the busiest road of Karachi. By all means, I was held hostage by them.
Then it was crunch time. Their boss handed me small piece of paper. It was a bill for Rs25,600. He literally ordered me to pay. Yes! You read it correctly, Rs25,600 for work I did not order and I did not know anything about — for installing some rubbers on the doors.
Their boss ordered me to get to the nearest ATM and pay the amount. There are several ATMs in and around Plaza but I stalled. The heavily-guarded portion of Abdullah Haroon Road was my safest bet. I told him, albeit correctly, that my bank was located near the Metropole Hotel and I could not withdraw the amount from One Link ATMs. This was not true, of course.
The head honcho, with a menacing look on his face, sat on the passenger seat of my car, while his colleague sat in the seat behind me as we drove to the ABN-Amro Bank near the US Consulate-General. I told the two to stay seated, inserted my card in the door and entered the bank.
I alerted the bank guards and officials and rang up my editor. I also tried 15, which nobody picked. Soon the police arrived and the two men in my car were escorted to the Artillery Maidan Police Station, in front of the Governor’s House. There our crime reporter handled the issue. The agony was finally over.
I learnt that a gang was operating at the Plaza and had robbed several people, charging, in one case Rs40,000 for installing door rubbers. I have heard of three similar cases. In one instance they went to the victim’s house to get the money. I was indeed lucky.
There are currently many more members of the gang who are still at large. It would be a good idea to inform your friends and colleagues to avoid the area.