LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) government will set up an online cell to deal with complaints of extortion, bribery, or nepotism against the Tiger Force, and work has already been started on this project at the government level, Pakistan Today learnt on Monday.
A survey conducted by Pakistan Today revealed that in the days of lockdown, some Tiger Force personnel continued to receive extortion and bribes from traders and shopkeepers.
Tanveer Mukhtar, a shopkeeper in Shah Alam Market, revealed that he kept giving money to three Tiger Force personnel for violating the standard operating procedures (SOPs). “After the government eased the lockdown, the businesses were allowed to open with SOPs. By then, some Tiger Force personnel had started patrolling the markets and collecting money from small shopkeepers in the name of violating SOPs. Since we reopened the businesses after a long time, we did not understand whether they were government officials or a volunteer force. We did not even know whom to complain. However, they demanded a very small amount of money, which was a few hundred rupees, so we did not bother much.”
Haji Mumtaz, a shopkeeper in the township, said he was in the business of selling tuff tiles and was disturbed by the behavior of the Tiger Force in the days of the lockdown. “Interestingly, the Tiger Force personnel are locals and they also have workers who roamed the markets all day to see which shopkeepers did not close their shops on time or did secret business or are not implementing SOPs. Later, these people raided the shops in groups and forced the shopkeeper to pay extortion. People did not even complain because they had to do business.”
Shafiq Baba, a wholesaler in Akbari Mandi, said that Tiger Force was very active in their markets during the lockdown. “Since wholesalers do business in our market and the government is also running a campaign against hoarders. Under the guise of the same campaign, a local businessman was also blackmailed. It is very easy to accuse wholesalers of hoarding because they have stock. As a result of disobeying the Tiger Force personnel, the price control magistrates kept checking our warehouses. The theme of this force is very good but the government should also create a system to keep a check on them.”
All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran General SecretaryNaeem Mir informed this scribe that no trader has yet complained to him regarding giving bribes to the Tiger Force. “In the markets, Tiger Force spies on traders and sends complaints against them to the district administration. As a result, officials also impose fines on shopkeepers. If the government wanted to supervise the traders through this force, they would have taken us in the loop, and we would have helped them in this. Unfortunately, it feels like the current government is campaigning against traders. Never in the past has such a force been created by a political or dictatorial government. As it is a force formed by a political party, its ambitions are also political and the present government wants to show by launching a campaign against the traders that the business community is exploiting the people even though it is not at all.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Punjab spokesperson Uzma Bukhari said the government should have been ashamed to celebrate Tiger Force Day. “The force has been seen taking bribes under the guise of coronavirus lockdown. Three incidents of bribery by Tiger Force personnel have come to light in Lahore alone. A resolution has also been submitted to the Punjab Assembly after receiving complaints of solicitation of bribe against Tiger Force,” she said.
On the other hand, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Punjab spokesperson Musarat Jamshed Cheema, while speaking to this scribe, said that those who wanted to volunteer became members of the Tiger Force through online registration.
She clarified that the registration was not only for PTI workers but for all Pakistanis. “During the lockdown, it was also pointed out that some PML-N workers were misbehaving with people wearing Tiger Force shirts. The grievances of the people cannot be ignored. We do not know what level of people have registered them in this registration. People involved in corruption in the force will soon be exposed. We will also conduct social media and media campaigns to make people aware of such people. The Tiger Force does not have the power, it can only provide services.”
“To address people’s grievances, we are going to create an online complaint cell in which the identities of such people will be published and their membership will be canceled. Similarly, legal punishment according to the nature of the crime will also be given to such people. We are also working on it and everything regarding complaint cell will come out in a few weeks,” she added.