HYDERABAD: When it comes to their task of recovering hostages — high-profile or otherwise — police often make what can be called “tit-for-tat detentions” in an effort to force the captors to set the hostages free.
This is exactly what police did before a gang of dacoits set a folksinger and his five-member band free in Shikarpur on Thursday.
The relatives of the dacoits who were taken into custody by police were still in detention on Thursday night when these words were being written. And no gangster had been arrested.
Police faced tough challenges — sophisticated weaponry of the criminals, difficult terrain of the area where the robbers were and fast flow of the mighty Indus — when they mounted an operation to recover the hostages. So, an active police operation did not get the job done but the time-tested method of making some “tit-for-tat arrests” surely did.
“We had picked up family members of the dacoits and even their tribal chief and this worked,” conceded a senior police officer from upper Sindh.
Arrest of gangsters’ relatives worked where police operation didn’t
“Hostages who have been released by the dacoits in Garhi Tegho are being transported to the Sukkur region aboard a boat,” said Irfan Baloch, the deputy inspector general (DIG) for Larkana range.
Shikarpur police lost a DSP in the operation on Tuesday night, said to be their fifth casualty in the last few months.
Police had picked up around a dozen close relatives of the chief of Teghani tribe, including his maternal and paternal nephews. The people were taken into custody to pressurise the gang of Bello Teghani that took the folksinger and his band hostage.
The police operation in Garhi Tegho, which falls under the jurisdiction of Shikarpur’s Naparkot police station, was put on hold due to the fast flow of the Indus that greatly restricted mobility, according to sources. Police were unable to enter the riverine area downstream Guddu barrage as it was submerged under water.
“We blocked their (dacoits’) supplies and also the points which are used for entry and exit purposes,” DIG Baloch told Dawn on Wednesday.
The hostages were folksinger Ghulam Nabi, alias Jigar Jalal, and his band that included his son Aftab Ahmed and nephew Ameer Ali.
Dr Jamil Ahmed, the additional inspector general of the Sukkur region, said that “backchannel mediation is under way and those mediating have the confidence of police, dacoits as well as the hostages”.
The singer, in a telephone conversation believed to have been recorded by his captors and released to some television channels, had said they “are in an area where even the army and police can’t reach; therefore it will be advisable that their [dacoits’] sardar be approached. Otherwise, there will be more losses”.
A police officer, however, insisted that one of the gangsters changed his voice to resemble that of a woman and asked the singer to perform in Garhi Tegho. The singer was asked to bring along some female dancers.
However, because the folksinger didn’t take any woman along with him, the dacoits expressed their ire by taking him and his group hostage.
Police officers, who have served in the area, pointed out that its terrain always puts gangsters in an advantageous position. The robbers can move to any of the four districts that converge at that point. All this makes it easy for the robbers to melt away whenever an operation is launched.
The kind of weaponry the robbers were using also made things difficult for police. They used an anti-aircraft gun against an armoured personnel career. Inspector Rao Shafiullah, who was officiating as a DSP, was martyred on Tuesday when he came out of his APC to assess the terrain.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019