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“Illegal taxes” collected in Karachi

November 25, 2010

Pakistan is crawling with mafia syndicates—the drug mafia, the land mafia, the weapons mafia.  But the father of all three is the “bhatta” mafia.  Bhatta refers to extortion.

The bhatta mafia have become increasingly active this year especially against businessmen in Karachi.  Cattle ranchers, rickshaw drivers, gold dealers, paper traders, furniture makers—nobody is immune:

But these may not be simple cases of criminal extortion.  According to a recent Express Tribune article, “Also, during Eid, Mehsud tribesmen living in Karachi are forced to pay ‘bhatta’ in the name of donations for fighters in Waziristan. ‘Last Eid, we received reports that ‘parchiyaan’ (tickets)* were collected from each trader in Sohrab Goth (in Karachi) for this purpose,’ Shahid said.”  The Express Tribune refers to such collections as “illegal taxes.”  Some call them “jagga taxes.”

Bhatta may go against Pakistan’s criminal laws, but taxes against traders—both Muslims and infidels—are required under Islamic law.  Customs duties on articles of trade are regarded as a type of zakat.

* A parchi is a slip of paper with an extortion demand.

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