CBC employee runs tractor over a street vendor for not paying ‘bhatta’

Muhammad Abid and his 10-year-old son were standing in their regular corner, selling water to wash the sand off beachgoers’ feet on the 30th of August.

The Karachi Beach

According to media reports, a tractor allegedly ran over a street vendor’s leg on a public beach when he refused to pay a bribe to a municipal employee in Karachi. Sources state that the vendor’s name is Muhammad Abid.

Karachi’s history of money extortion, aka bhatta

Reports state that Karachi has a long history of money extortionists who usually target informal small shop owners and street vendors. According to details, street vendors represent 72 percent of the city’s informal economy but have no legal protection. Therefore, these people often become prey to “anti-encroachment” drives by local authorities and police.

Karachi-based urban planner Farhan Anwar said:

If a vendor is using space on a street or pavement, he won’t be able to do his trade without paying several entities under the table. That is where this form of extortion comes up. If street vending is legalized, these groups won’t be able to charge these people anymore.

Sources state that gangs or corrupt officials offer protection to this informal economy in exchange for protection money. However, hawkers who fail to pay up extortion money often end up becoming victims of violence.

The street vendor whose leg was allegedly cut off

Details of the Incident

Muhammad Abid and his 10-year-old son were standing in their regular corner, selling water to wash the sand off beachgoers’ feet on the 30th of August. A man known only by his last name, Sarfaraz, came up to Abid and demanded protection money, aka Bhatta.

Speaking to a media outlet, Abid’s uncle Allahbaksh Derasha said:

Sarfaraz works as a supervisor at the municipal authority. He had regularly been extorting money from Abid in exchange for keeping his corner at the beach. That day, Abid couldn’t afford to pay the bhatta and pleaded with Sarfaraz for a reprieve.

However, Sarfaraz ignored Abid’s pleas and allegedly ordered a tractor driver, who was clearing the beach, to run over Abid. According to Derasha, the driver ran the tractor over Abid’s right leg, severing it completely.

Reports state that Abid’s son witnessed the entire incident, which terrified him. The little boy screamed for help which attracted the attention of bystanders, who gathered at the scene. The people caught Sarfaraz and called the police and an ambulance.

Extortion money

The situation only worsened hereafter

The ambulance arrived at the scene before the police; therefore, bystanders pushed Sarfaraz into the ambulance to prevent him from escaping. Poor Abid ended up riding to the hospital alongside his alleged criminal.

Abid’s lawyer, Jibran Nasir, detailed what happened at the hospital and said:

At the hospital, Sarfaraz introduced himself to staff as Abid’s relative and to Abid’s family members as an attendant. Sarfaraz managed to steal the medical-legal report. Later, Abid’s amputated foot went missing from the hospital. I believe Sarfaraz stole it too.

According to media reports, a video at the hospital shows Sarfaraz standing beside Abid’s hospital bed. The accused is heard stating that he witnessed the incident.

Abid’s lawyer, Jibran Nasir, stated:

In these anti-encroachment or extortion collection drives, you often see people losing their lives, which is why many believe street vending should be regularised.

Abid’s uncle Derasha said:

Abid is shaken by the incident. He is disabled now – his leg is gone, his mind is broken, and he is forced to stay home. Complete silence has fallen over the house.

People enjoy with families at Karachi beach

Police involvement in the matter

The police officials are currently investigating the incident and looking for witnesses. According to details, Sarfaraz has been charged with “causing injury by negligent driving” and with “deliberately causing permanent disfigurement”.

On the other hand, the tractor company claims that the incident was an accident. Speaking to a police official, the company said:

Abid was being asked to move to make way for construction work. When he refused to do so, one of two tractors in the area inadvertently ended up running him over.

Assistant secretary Sajjad Nazir, an official from the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), an autonomous municipal body that governs the area, denied Sarfaraz’s involvement in the incident, saying:

Sarfaraz did not order the tractor driver to run over Abid. Sarfaraz is only a supervisor in the area who looks after the duties of the Cantonment Board. The tractor and the driver are privately contracted. CBC has nothing to do with the onus of the driver or vehicle.

He further stated:

The incident that occurred was highly unfortunate; however, the report that is being given is not possible. No matter how much one is opposed to a situation, is it possible for a human being to provide such an order?

While there isn’t much concrete evidence available at the moment, police officials continue to investigate the incident. Only time will unveil who is genuinely responsible for Abid’s critical condition.

Story originally published in Vice

What are your thoughts on this? Please share with us in the comment section below.

  • Featured Content⭐