HYDERABAD: Sindh’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mushtaq Mahar has struck down Hyderabad police region AIG Dr Jamil Ahmed’s official order about formation of ‘regional crime control cell’, referred to as “R3C”, and said the cell has been “maliciously created in contravention of rules and directions issued time and again” by the IGP’s office.

“Any such special cell working at district, range or region level shall be disbanded forthwith as it is illegal and brings bad name to police department,” said the IGP’s order issued on April 9.

Though the order disbands what it calls the “maliciously created setup” it falls short of fixing responsibility on the cell’s creator(s) or those linked with it and engaged in activities that “bring bad name to the department”.

Karachi-based police sources said that the IGP took action after receiving information about the R3C’s activities through departmental setup and those associated with the cell in the AIG’s office. “Some written reports were provided to IGP about some people operating from the AIG’s office,” confided a source in Central Police Office (CPO).

The cell was “maliciously created in contravention of rules” says IGP’s office

The R3C — a novel name unheard of before in police department — was formed on Sept 9, 2004, with some terms of reference, defining the cell’s six-point mandate. It was to be headed by a DSP whose name was not mentioned for ensuring security of the cell members, argued AIG Jamil.

He said reacting to the IGP’s action in answer to Dawn’s queries on Monday that “it’s fine if the IGP has disbanded it,” but stopped short of explaining why his superior had used such strong term as “malicious” for his creation, R3C. “IGP can comment on the cell’s activities, if any, in terms of illegality,” he added.

“But R3C has not done anything of note here yet [since Sept 2020],” he conceded, giving away very little though he did privately explain that R3C was meant for pre-empting terrorist activities of outfits like Daesh and attacks on Rangers that had taken place in Sukkur region.

The cell’s members were to infiltrate banned outfits and gangs to collect information regarding notorious criminals, terrorists, proclaimed offenders, drug peddlers and anti-social elements. “In case of imperative necessity only, R3C is authorised to undertake swift action against criminals in the entire region with prior approval of the AIG,” said the AIG in his Sept 9 order.

Information gathered by Dawn from Hyderabad and Karachi police officers revealed that a couple of individuals associated with the AIG office and R3C in one way or the other had dubious backgrounds. They were either retired officers or dismissed from service.

One of them was brought from Sukkur Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), two from police line Sukkur and one was dismissed from Karachi police where the AIG had headed CTD.

“All these men are involved in smuggling of maava (tobacco mixed mild drug), betel nut, cigarettes, Indian gutka that reach Sindh through Balochistan from Iran where it reaches from India,” said a source.

They were operating what they referred to as “line” in their parlance in the region to ensure delivery of goods to traders in Karachi and Hyderabad. Iranian oil also passed through this “line”, said the source.

“Not only police but other watchdogs from different departments and agencies are having their pound of flesh in this lucrative activity,” he disclosed.

A couple of months back SHO Nisar Shah (later suspended by Hyderabad SSP Salam Shaikh) had seized such a “line” around Hatri area in his capacity as member of a raiding team formed by some officers.

“Non-custom paid betel nut, among other contraband, is delivered to traders through small and big “lines”, which are in fact routes of delivery through which the drugs are transported from one destination to other,” disclosed a source in Hyderabad police, who was linked to a “line”.

“A big ‘line’ is the one in which trucks transport tobacco and illegal goods through Indus Highway to different areas and through small ‘line’ relatively small quantities of contraband are delivered through vehicles like passenger coaches,” he said.

“A large number of units produce sweet betel nut in Karachi for which raw betel nut is brought through these lines,” he said.

“In Hyderabad, goods are delivered to one Faheem in Fakir ka Pir and Kamran in Sakhi Pir area and to others in Tower Market. Kamran’s brother handles his work now in his name. These traders are working with Zareen Pathan, Javed, Arif Pathan, Ajmal Pathan, Nabi Bux, Jalal, Wali Pathan and Lali Pathan who ensure supplies,” said an officer from Karachi.

Strangely, Hyderabad DIG Sharjeel Kharal and SSP Abdul Salam Sheikh draw a blank when asked about R3C and express complete ignorance of the cell’s activities.

Outgoing Hyderabad DIG Naeem Sheikh had recommended in July 2019 closure of “all special teams” working in police’s commands in Sindh purportedly for fighting crime.

He sent recommendations to IGP after inquiry into June 17, 2019 illegal seizure of 180 cartons of cigarette by a special team of the then AIG Ghulam Sarwar Jamali, who was transferred by then IGP Syed Kaleem Imam. Jamali’s team was then led by a head clerk, which had also raided a factory.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2021

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