RE As the spate of terror strikes has almost ruined international tourism in the country while badly affecting businesses of luxury hotels, now City police are out to put last nail in the coffin of hotel industry by carrying out frequent raids in the name of search operations.
Luxury hotels at The Mall and its close vicinity are already facing business slump after 9/11 and most recently due to the wave of terrorism that caused the foreigners to stay away from the country. Low occupancy in the wake of terrorism wave and deteriorating law and order situation has forced the management of luxury hotels to charge acceptable fare to the visitors.
But for the low cost hotels and guesthouses, the major reason of low occupancy is different from the one for the luxury hotels in the City.
Regular and intensive Police search has badly damaged occupancy at low cost hotels and guesthouses across the City.
Growing security concerns in the wake of prevailing wave of terrorism has put the Police on its toes, causing room-to-room search at hotels and guesthouses, mainly in the close vicinity of Airport, Lahore Railways Station, Lorry Adda, Data Darbar and major entry and exit points in the City. Previously, the Police search was confined to wee hours only but recently in addition to that it has started carrying out operation in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon. The change in operation timings has now caused love birds to stay away from cheat accommodation even during daytime to avoid falling prey to the law enforcement agencies.
According to the managers of a number of hotels in the surroundings of Lahore Railways Station, the regular Police search has decreased the business by almost half and now it has become difficult to meet even the daily expenses.
Not only merry makers but also families are avoiding stay in low cost hotels. The occupancy has decreased by almost 50 percent. The hotel expenditures increase considerably at peak summer due to excessive use of air conditioners and compulsory use of generators in case of power shut down. It has become difficult for the management to meet even the daily expenses, said a manager at a hotel near Lahore Railways Station on the condition of not to be quoted.
To a question that why families were avoiding when the Police target was only terrorists and to some extent merry makers, he said that the Policemen see every person with suspicion that irk respectable families. The families may be preferring residences of their relatives or are staying at more expensive hotels, he said, adding, the merry makers were real target of the Police as they could give handsome amount for saving their skin.
The Police look for young couples and not terror suspects. For the Police, catching a young couple means earning handsome amount. Capturing 2-3 couples from a hotel make Police search operation successful, said a manager at a hotel near Shadman Crossing. He said that not a single terror suspect has been caught during the ongoing search operation at hotels.
Why the Police are not checking expensive hotels. Terrorists can also stay there. The same is the situation for rich merry makers. But the Police is earning money at the cost of business of small hotels, said owner of a guesthouse in Johar Town seeking anonymity.
After each major terror strike in Lahore or any other part of the country, the Police kick off a high-level search operation from late night to pre-dawn but at the end they catch a few persons involved in social crimes like drug peddling or having illicit relations with opposite sex.
Frankly speaking, its totally failed and futile exercise that we have been doing. We could not arrest even a single major terrorist though we have carried out countless search operations, a senior Police officer said on the condition of anonymity.
The officer admitted that the exercise was merely an eye-wash for the public and those sitting at the helm of affairs.
Terrorists are not waiting for the Police to carryout search operation and nab them at a cheap hotel. We need modern and well-equipped policing in this regard instead of carrying out the futile exercise of search operation at cheap hotels, said another police officer.
According to insiders, the exercise is providing good opportunities to the cops to mint money in the name of search and checking of identity documents besides pressuring the innocent civilians to grab money.
When contacted repeatedly for their comments, the CCPO and the DIG Operation were not available.