Ghulam Rasool alias Chotoo, the ringleader of the Chotoo gang, against whom security forces have launched a major operation, worked as a security guard for MPA Atif Mazari for three to five years in Rojhan, according to police officials.
He also worked for the Punjab police as an informer till 2007 and used to inform police about gangs involved in robberies and kidnapping for ransom in Rajanpur and Muzaffargarh districts.
According to locals and police, Chotoo belongs to Bakrani clan of Mazari tribe of Rojhan area. He later developed differences with police over unknown reasons and established his own gang to carry out criminal activities.
Some small and prominent gangs operating in Rojhan, Dera Ghazi Khan and adjoining districts of Sindh and Balochistan also joined the Chotoo gang. They include Bilal alias Bilali Jaakha, Baba Long, Gumani Gopang, Sindhi group, Bosans of Muzaffargrah and Khalid Kajlani.
The Bilali Jaakha gang was formed by two brothers — Bilal Jaakha and Jugnu Jaakha. They are said to be implicated in a fake case for killing two sisters of Gopang tribe of Rajanpur. It is said the women were killed by their tribe but it implicated the Jaakha brothers in the case because of an old enmity.
The two brothers were reportedly acquitted of the murder charge by a court. During their time in jail they developed links with criminals and after their release killed their ‘enemies’ and joined the Chotoo gang.
The criminals who were declared proclaimed offenders in different areas of south Punjab and Sindh used to take shelter in localities under the control of Chotoo.
The small gangs, after kidnapping businessmen and professionals from areas as far as Karachi, Balochistan and Rahimyar Khan, sell them to Chotoo for Rs400,000 to Rs500,000. A former fugitive who had spent more than a year with the Chotoo gang said Chotoo got bigger ransom amount for their release.
The Punjab police have so far carried out six to seven operations against the Chotoo gang and lost at least 30 policemen. Some gangsters were also killed.
The riverine area of Kachi Jamal in Rajanpur, a stronghold of the Chotoo gang, has a population of more than 10,000 people living in small villages. They depend mostly on rearing animals and farming. Chotoo is known for helping the locals and never carried out any criminal activity in the area. But he made it a no-go area for police who found it almost impossible to get information about him from the locals.
Earlier, the Bosan gang headed by Zafar Bosan and Tariq Bosan were the uncrowned rulers of the area till 2003-04. They were later eliminated by police.
The biggest operation carried out by Rajanpur and Rahimyar Khan police against the Chotoo gang was in 2010 which continued for three months, but to no avail. The last operation was conducted in 2013.
During an operation in Kotla Mughlan area of Rajanpur some years ago, police, however, succeeded in recovering a doctor from the gang and killing a gangster.
Local police wanted to carry out the operation against the Chotoo gang in a careful manner, cordoning off the area by setting up checkposts and bunkers nearby, slowly closing in on the outlaws.
But Punjab IG Mushtaq Sukhera was in a hurry.
According to a police officer who was onboard a boat which came under attack by the Chotoo gang on April 13, the local police opposed the way the IG wanted to carry out the operation.
They told him that the gang had more sophisticated weapons and capacity than police and only the army could counter them. But the IG said the Punjab government didn’t want to involve the army in the matter as it was against its policy.
The officer said that when the police refused to attack the gang without any proper planning and sought some time, the IG dared them, saying he would himself go to the riverine area if they didn’t.
At this, regional and district police officers begged their subordinates to save their prestige.
“Policemen in two boats moved into the area along both banks of the river. The boats came under attack. One of them was captured by the gangsters and the other in which I was got fired on,” the officer said, adding that police returned fire and killed two gangsters.
Four policemen were killed during the gunbattle, while another succumbed to his injuries in a hospital.
Surprisingly, the ground operation was being led by SHOs, though all senior officials, including DSPs, SPs, DPOs, RPOs and the IG, were present there.
When Chotoo came to know that an SHO was among the captured policemen, he separated him from other captives and shot him dead on the spot.
Due to haste and flawed planning of the IG, seven policemen have lost their lives while 27 others are still in captivity of the gangsters.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2016