LAHORE: Personnel of Pakistan Army have taken over the operation against members of the Chotoo gang in the riverine area of Rajanpur, the military's media wing said on Saturday.
Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa announced on Twitter that army troops have been deployed in the Kacha areas and have taken charge of Operation Zarb-i-Aahan.
A cordon is being reinforced, and police and Rangers already deployed will continue to participate under the command of the army, Bajwa said. He added that whatever resources are required will be employed to accomplish the mission.
Relatives protest, curfew imposed
Relatives of the policemen taken hostage held a demonstration Saturday in Jampur to demand their safe recovery from the Chotoo gang’s captivity.
Scores of protesters gathered at Traffic Chowk in Jampur and chanted slogans against the “ineptitude’ and “ill-planning” of police authorities which paved the way for casualties and abductions.
On the other hand, members of the Chotoo gang demanded safe passage to leave the area and the halting of the operation in exchange for the hostages.
Sources said the gang is allegedly using the hostages as human shields against shelling and firing by law enforcement agencies.
Rajanpur's District Coordination Officer (DCO) Chaudhry Zahoor Hussain imposed section 144 and a dusk-to-dawn curfew in 20 subdistricts of Rajanpur during the ongoing security operation.
According to DCO Hussain, the curfew will be relaxed from 6am to 8am, 1pm to 2pm, and 5pm to 6pm.
Section 144 and curfew has been imposed in the following areas: Chak Haider, Chak Soori, Shah Wali Khas, Chak Chargh Shah, Chak Bahote, Kacha Bahote, Kacha Razi, Soonmiani, Chak Dhanwari, Kacha Yaru Shah, Baily Shah, Chak Kupra , Chak Umrani, Jangothadi, Gad Nar, Bumbly Khairpur, Kin Khas, Rakh Shah Wali, Gari Soori and Daingri Soori.
Formally launching a grand operation against hardened criminals on Friday, military forces resorted to shelling at their hideouts in the troubled riverine area of Rajanpur district.
Helicopter gunships were used to hit suspected positions and bunkers set up by criminals affiliated with the Chotoo gang, a senior security official told Dawn. The initial air strikes lasted about 20 minutes. Moreover, security forces taking part in the operation, codenamed Zarb-i-Aahan, also had the backup support of mortars fired by Rangers.