Eid-ul-Adha
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Eid-ul-Adha is the holiest of Islamic festivals but ironically, these sacred days provide a bonanza for the whole criminal spectrum from the low-level hoodlums to organized crime syndicates.

In Karachi, the game of hides used to be a fierce competition between different criminal groups. A decades old practice, every year thugs extorted valuable hides of the sacrificed goats and cows from ordinary citizens through intimidation and force. Fear made this extortion an accepted reality in the metropolis where different political and ethnic groups, until very recently, ruled and fought over the lucrative criminal economy.

Hides were traditionally meant to be donated to the poor but criminal enterprises corrupted this charitable impulse with fear on every Eid-ul-Adha.

After a comprehensive anti-criminal drive by Sindh Rangers, extortionists can no longer operate in broad daylight and the game of hides has reportedly subsided but it is still a fascinating to study how the MQM, ANP, Sunni-Tehreek and other groups controlled the City of Lights like medieval lords.

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Hides were traditionally meant to be donated to the poor but criminal enterprises corrupted this charitable impulse with fear on every Eid-ul-Adha.

At the height of their power, the mafia would deploy its henchmen to go door to door claiming skins by distributing chits on the morning of Eid. These chits would state the Mafia’s claim over the skins which was seldom challenged.

The henchmen were also aware of the number and nature of animals each household intended to sacrifice.

If someone displayed resistance, their sacrificial livestock was shot with a dire warning of further consequences.

The largest and most well-organized mafia had always been associated with MQM. Sometimes if MQM tried to seize skins from an area where its political hold was not complete, residents would resist. In such cases, the henchmen would resort to armed robbery in broad daylight. They had political support and knew that if they were caught by the police they would be bailed out easily.

Legitimate charitable organizations were also targeted. Whole trucks carrying skins donated to charitable trusts would be hijacked and stolen.

There were also clashes between different criminal groups. Occasionally, one group would conduct a raid on a weaker groups stash point. These raids would often turn into violent clashes resulting in loss of life.

Legitimate charitable organizations were also targeted. Whole trucks carrying skins donated to charitable trusts would be hijacked and stolen.

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It is said that the target for the collection of hides used to come directly from the top of the leadership. In MQM’s case, London. Estimates indicate that the total value of the hide game during the 3 to 4 days of Eid-ul-Adha amounted to Rs.2-3 billion.

Although the Rangers operation put a stop to this lawlessness, it is important to remember this era to understand the dynamics of Karachi and how unchecked political power can turn the holiest of times into a looting free-for-all.

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