BADIN: Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) president Qabool Mohammad Khatian — a big landlord of Sindh and close aide to Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari — on Tuesday claimed that law-enforcement agency personnel had taken away his cousin, Raees Aamir Khan Khatian, in the recent raid on his [Qabool Khatian’s] farmhouse near Tando Bago town of Badin district.

He also clarified that the raid was conducted in the early hours of Saturday, and not on Saturday night as was reported earlier.

Speaking to this reporter on Tuesday, Qabool Khatian described the raid and “enforced disappearance” of Raees Khatian — a member of the Badin district council — as continuation of the political victimisation on the part of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government at the Centre.

“My cousin was taken away by the men in civvies, who raided my farmhouse and autaq (guest room) riding several vehicles in the early hours of Saturday,” he said, adding that “whereabouts of Raees Khatian are still not known”.

He said he inquired from Deputy Commissioner Dr Hafeez Ahmed Siyal, Badin SSP Hassan Sardar Niazi and their subordinate officials in the district administration and police but none of them appeared aware of his whereabouts.

Deploring the raid, he said it was conducted in Meena village while he was away in Islamabad to meet Asif Zardari, kept in jail there. He said Raees Khatian’s family, relatives and friends were worried about his life and well-being.

He said he or his cousin were not wanted in any criminal case, and argued that Raees Khatian should be produced in court if he was involved in any wrongdoing.

No official in Badin district administration appeared ready to comment on Mr Khatian’s claims.

Insisting that the action was part of political victimisation, Qabool Khatian said: “We own vast lands and properties in several districts of Sindh and have been maintaining very close business association with the Zardari family. We fully supported the PPP in the previous general elections in the province.”

Our Hyderabad correspondent adds: The Sindh Chamber of Agriculture on Tuesday condemned what it believed was the “federal government’s role in the raid on SCA president’s farmhouse”.

A spokesman for the SCA said that an emergency meeting of the organisation was held on Tuesday to discuss the issue. It was attended by a large number of members and growers. The meeting termed the raid “targeted action” on the part of the federal government with the aim of intimidating the SCA and its leadership.

The spokesman said that the chamber had been criticising the Centre’s agriculture policy which did not go well with the federal government. He pointed out that the raid was conducted but nothing [objectionable] was found.

He appealed to the president and prime minister to take notice of the raid and initiate action against those involved.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019