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Police at their wits’ end in Chenab Bela

December 31, 2003

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GUJRAT, Dec 30: The Dec 21 killing of four policemen in Chenab Bela once again challenges the authority of police and administration who have, over the years, failed to rid the area of outlaws.

Spread along the districts of Sialkot, Gujranwala and Gujrat, Chenab Bela has been a no-go area for villagers and as well as for the police since decades because of the presence of hundreds of wanted men.

SI Malik Ilyas and constables Farooq, Tariq Mahmood and Javed Iqbal were shot dead by unidentified people near Dera Chaudhrian. The killers also took away two official Kalashnikovs and as many G3 rifles that belonged to the slain policemen.

Jalalpur Jattan Sadar police had registered a case against 16 people, including proclaimed offender Rafaqat alias Faqu of Kula Chor village. The others were Waqar Ahmad, Jehangir, Zafar, Sajid Shah, Iqbal Shah, Razzaq alias Yaqu, Azam alias Shesh Nag, Riaz Faqir, Iqbal alias Bala, Saleem alias Saleema, Shoaib alias Sheebi, Ateequr Rahman alias Ati, Khursheed alias Khursheeda, Yousaf and Chaudhry Iqtadar.

The slain policemen had gone to Bela on the complaint of Saeed when their two-wheelers came under indiscriminate fire of the outlaws. They all died instantly.

Information gleaned by this correspondent through various sources gave out that one of the nominated accused in the FIR, Rafaqat alias Faqu, is a notorious PO and known as Bela ‘IG’. He is the ring leader of the POs and other criminals hiding in the Bela.

Faqu is wanted by the Jalalpur Jattan Sadar police in over two dozen cases and Jalalpur Jattan City police in six cases of heinous nature. He is also wanted by Tanda police in three cases of similar crimes. His deputy Basa of Noora Mandiala is wanted by Gujrat Sadar police in a case under sections 365A/392.

Before April this year, one of Faqu’s brothers PO Ashfaq Ahmad alias Shaqu and his friend Abbas alias Basa of Noora Mandiala village, also a PO, were known as DIGs of Bela. Another PO Naseeb Gul of Kotli Loharan village, Sialkot, is considered to be a close aide of Faqu.

The four POs have jointly raided several times in the Gujrat district during the last three years. Faqu, Shaqu, Naseeb Gul and two more POs Naveed Hussain of Dhool Khurd village and Afzal of Faisalabad are also wanted by Gujrat Sadar police. However, the police succeeded in killing Ashfaq alias Shaqu in an encounter on April 17 in Chenab Bela. At the beginning of the current year, over 1,042 POs, including 527 of A-category and 515 of B-category, were wanted by the Gujrat police in various heinous crimes.

During the first five months of the current year, the Gujrat police led by DPO Raja Munawar and the then Gujranwala Range DIG Malik Iqbal had launched a campaign against the POs and killed several of them, including Shaqu, Maqsood alias Sooda Butt, Irshad alias Shada, Basharat alias Shari Malah, Mansha and Akhtar.

In June last, the police had launched an operation clean-up in Chenab Bela, but Faqu and his accomplices could not be nabbed. The POs hiding in Chenab Bela are equipped with sophisticated weapons, including rocket-launchers, smoke bombs, grenades, G3 and KK guns, besides cordless phones. They also have wireless system through which they can hear the movement of any police operation. This situation tend to scare the men in uniform who normally avoid facing these gangs.

Faqu and his gang, comprising over 200 POs, are involved in murders, kidnap for ransoms and robberies. The worst-sufferers at their hands in kidnap for ransom cases are the industrialists of Gujrat, Sialkot and Gujranwala districts. Several cases are not reported to police for their fear. Collection of ransom from industrialists is the secondary source of earning of the Chenab Bela gangsters.

Over 1,200 POs are still wanted by the Gujrat police in various heinous cases and most of them are hiding in the Chenab Bela. They are operating in Jalalpur Jattan in Gujrat, Sambrial and Head Marala in Sialkot, Wazirabad and Gujranwala.

About eight villages, including Khasa, Mewal, Nanowal, Notay and Umarwal of Gujrat are situated along the Bela while their residents have to pass sleepless nights due to the presence of criminals in close vicinity.

Experts have suggested that the government with the help of army, police and other law enforcement agencies should launch a massive clean-up operation in Bela to shake the area off criminals.