THATTA: Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Chairman Syed Mohammad Ali Shah and his three companions were allegedly held hostage and harassed by a group of armed men when they arrived in a coastal village near Shah Bandar on Monday “to help fishermen take back possession of a lake from a wadera”.

Mr Shah told journalists at Sujawal Civil Hospital where he had brought one of his colleagues for treatment that he and his colleagues had undertaken the visit to the area to help local fishermen get their wetland back in the light of recent directives by Sindh High Court about vacation of lakes and wetlands from the possession of influential ‘waderas’.

He said that when they reached Baabli lake, they found earth moving machines busy expanding the lake under the supervision of a group of armed men who held them hostage on seeing them and hauled them off to a nearby Autaq of a wadera.

They held them against their will for four hours and issued threats of dire consequences before allowing them to go on condition that they would not tell anybody about the incident, he said.

He said that immediately after the release they rushed to nearby Ladyu police station to lodge a complaint but police declined their request. Later, he informed other officials about the incident, he added.

However, a villager of the area told a different story. He disclosed on condition of anonymity that PFF chief and his colleagues had arrived at the ‘privately-owned’ lake for illegal hunting. When locals resisted they clashed with each other, he said.

A press release issued by provincial minister Mohammad Ali Malkani said that he was not aware about the detention of PFF chief and he was still collecting facts about what had actually taken place at the lake.

Our staff reporter in Karachi adds: Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal has ordered a comprehensive investigation into the incident. He asked the Thatta SSP to hold the inquiry and submit a report to him about the action taken against those responsible for the “abduction and torture” of the PFF chairman and his fellows, said a home department release.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2017

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