Battle against dacoits

Published November 28, 2022

THE Punjab police is clearly fighting a formidable, and so far losing, battle against the criminal gangs based in the riverine area of Rajanpur, south Punjab, which is contiguous with Sindh and Balochistan. Last week, the dacoits employed heavy weaponry, including rocket launchers, for over five hours against the poorly equipped law-enforcement agency. Five cops were trapped in a broken-down two-decade-old APC which then came under lethal attack from the criminals; fortunately, they were rescued by fellow policemen. However, during the operation, in which 1,000 cops were participating, a most-wanted criminal was killed, and another notorious outlaw and six of his accomplices were injured. In response, several gangs have come together under the umbrella of the banned Baloch Liberation Army, and threatened to attack six police stations in the district. While some links may have existed between the two groups already, this development could open a new chapter in the long-running saga with both providing logistical support to each other, and even pose a threat to international interests.

It is mind-boggling that the riverine area has not been purged of its violent gangs despite the fearsome clashes that erupt between the criminals and local law-enforcement now and again. A number of cops have been killed; several have been taken hostage by the outlaws in order to pressure the police to release their detained accomplices. The security situation is perilous, with the gangs carrying out highway robberies and kidnappings for ransom, even assassinations. When kidnapping for ransom had reached an all-time high in 2016, an army-led operation had flushed out some of the gangs holed up in the densely forested area. But the dacoits are back and more brazen than ever. The problem can never be rooted out unless their lifeline — political patronage — is cut. It is well known that the sardars protect the gangs and use them to intimidate their opponents, and even to keep their own tribes in line. These feudal elements should not be allowed to get away with harbouring violent criminals.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2022

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