Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani ordered the sealing of three branches of the Imtiaz Supermarket on Thursday for a second or third time during the current lockdown against local transmission of COVID-19.
Speaking to The News, the spokesperson for the superstore chain, Nadeem, confirmed that their branches in Bahadurabad, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Clifton had once again been sealed.
Gulshan Town Assistant Commissioner (AC) Ali Gopang said that this was the second time they had sealed the supermarket chain’s stores. “Repeated warnings were given to the Imtiaz Supermarket ever since the sealing of their Gulshan branch earlier this month for the first time. No one was observing social distancing there.”
When asked if they would allow it to reopen like the last time, Gopang said the action was taken on the orders of senior officials after videos of the rush inside the superstores were found to be constantly circulating on social media.
He said they visited their Gulshan branch on Thursday and didn’t find anyone observing social distancing at all. “The commissioner or deputy commissioner [DC] will look into the matter of its reopening.”
Generally, according to Gopang, the supermarket owner needs to submit an affidavit in the name of the AC or the DC assuring to comply with all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government in order to be allowed to reopen their store.
Commissioner Shallwani said they had sealed those supermarkets in the city that weren’t following the SOPs. When it was mentioned that this was the second or third time they had to seal the branches of the Imtiaz Supermarket, he said they seemed not to listen to the directions.
Shallwani said they would seek proper affidavits from the sealed superstores before allowing them to reopen. Meanwhile, Nadeem said that after doctors held an alarming news conference about COVID-19, the authorities sprang into action and sealed their branches.
He said staff members of some other local store were infected with the virus, adding that their supermarkets had to deal with the consequences. When asked about the SOPs, Nadeem said they made sure all the directions of the government were followed to the letter.
“A queue of 5,000 people outside our supermarkets is quite the evidence that we’re following all the SOPs,” he said, adding that they were not the enemy of the public as being presented in the media.
He complained that sometimes it becomes difficult for them to manage the queue of thousands of shoppers outside their stores, for which they had written to the DCs several times requesting the deployment of police officials.
“Our security guards alone can’t manage everyone at the same time,” he said, adding that closing their branches a day before Ramazan will make the public suffer. Moreover, according to a statement issued by the commissioner’s office, the DCs of the city clamped down on six superstores in their respective districts for violating social distancing rules and not implementing the official price list.
Apart from the three branches of the Imtiaz Supermarket, three other superstores have been sealed: the Naheed Supermarket on Tariq Road, the Chase Supermarket on Shaheed-e-Millat Road and the Bin Hashim Supermarket at Safoora.
The commissioner, according to the statement, has directed all the DCs to ensure that the SOPs to control the novel coronavirus are being implemented at all the superstores across the city.