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SAHIWAL, May 8: Traders blocked roads for two hours and staged a 16-hour sit-in on Thursday in protest against, what is to be believed, the biggest robbery in the history of the city in which dacoits took away cell phones and cash worth Rs20 million from two shops on Wednesday night.

Traders burnt tyres and chanted slogans against Fatehsher police for their alleged inefficiency in nabbing the criminals.

Umer, who is eyewitness to the dacoity, told Dawn that over a dozen dacoits arrived in three cars at Liaquat Chowk at 3am on Wednesday. Liaquat Chowk is hub of mobile phone businesses. He said dacoits held five guards manning different points at gunpoint.

He claimed he called 15 for help at 3:05am but police did not arrive until 3:50am. Dacoits broke into Butt Milk and Yogurt Shop, Hong Kong Mobiles and Brother Mobiles.

The owners of mobile shops said that dacoits stole cell phone sets worth Rs18 million, Rs1.5 million in cash and Rs500,000 prize bonds from their shops. The dairy shop owner said dacoits took away Rs15,000 from his shop.

The dacoits completed the operation in 25 to 30 minutes and fled. Police launched a first information report against unidentified people.

Shahzad Akbar, Fatehsher assistant sub-inspector, arrived at the crime scene at 3:55am.

“He did not call his colleagues to chase the dacoits or set up pickets,” alleged Ihsanul Haq Farid, head of the Anjuman Tajran, Sahiwal.

Early in the morning representatives of trader organisations started gathering at Liaquat Chowk. They did not allow any shopkeeper to open his shop in Furniture Bazaar, Jinnah Chowk and adjacent roads of Liaquat Chowk. They staged a sit-in and burnt tyres in Liaquat Chowk and blocked roads for two hours.

District Police Officer Tariq Abbas visited the crime scene in the morning and pledge to arrest the culprits within no time and left the place hurriedly. The traders, however, continued a sit-in which ended after 16 hours when the DPO again visited the bazaar and assured the traders of early arrest of the dacoits.

"If police do not arrest the dacoits in 12 hours, the whole Sahiwal will be shut on Friday (today)," said Rana Muzaffer, general secretary of Anjuman Tajran.

“Traders demand that ASI Shahzad Akbar not only be suspended from service but also be included in investigation as he showed negligence even after getting timely information,” Muhammad Sarwar Khan, Anjuman Tajran president, said.

PML-N and PPP leaders Zaki Chaudhry and Ihsan Idrees were also present at the sit-in.

RESCUE DAY: Up to 3,000 rescuers and firefighters from Rescue 1122 have helped 1.2 million people of 12 districts of Punjab in emergencies, which include 4,160 fire incidents.

Dr Rizwan, Punjab Emergency Services (Rescue 1122) director general, said this while addressing a seminar at Mission Hospital on Wednesday.

Rescue 1122 organised the function to mark Rescue and Fire Fighting Day.

Dr Rizwan said emergency services were not widely practiced in the past due to the lack of skilled staff and technology. Rescue 1122 was established under the Punjab Emergencies Services Act of 2006.

“Our rescuers are trained to operate latest equipment and vehicles,” he said. He said illegal encroachments along roads created main hurdles for emergency vehicles’ movement and the situation was even grimmer in small cities.

He demanded district governments remove illegal encroachments so that emergency vehicles could run and reach the emergencies as early as possible. District Nazim Rai Hasan Nawaz and Citizen Police Liaison Committee Chairman Alamdar Hussain were also present.