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KARACHI: Two more robbers set on fire by mob

May 18, 2008

KARACHI, May 17: A charged mob severely beat up and then set on fire two robbers at North Nazimabad on Saturday, in a grim reminder of a similar incident that occurred earlier this week in Eidgah. One of the victims died after reaching hospital while the other is stated by the Civil Hospital to have mere chances of survival.

Witnesses and sources in the police said that the two men were caught as they fled on foot after having robbed the passengers of a minibus. The brutal episode, which took place in broad daylight, attracted hundreds of people, some of whom participated in the violence while others looked on.

Carrying a moderate number of passengers, the minibus had been on its way towards Nagan Chowrangi when it was intercepted by the two armed robbers who stripped the passengers of their cash, cellphones and other valuables. They were later identified as 25-year-old Danish, who was killed by the mob, and Imran, aged about 35.

“When the two men disembarked near Five Star Chowrangi, one of them lost his balance and fell on the footpath,” said an eyewitness who saw the robbers set afire. “Upon seeing this, one of the passengers of the minibus started shouting and nearby people overpowered the two men.” The mob then fell upon the robbers and after giving them a severe beating, set them on fire.

People who witnessed the barely 10-minute-long episode told Dawn that rising insecurity coupled with the Eidgah precedent a few days ago probably provoked the mob into dealing with the criminals on their own.

Interventions in vain

“Some older people tried to rescue the two robbers but in vain,” said an eyewitness. “Similarly, a driver of the Chhipa ambulance service was also met with punches and kicks when he tried to intervene. Two policemen of the Muhafiz Force also tried to stop the violence but the mob snatched their guns and gave them a serious thrashing.”

A police official confirmed that the robbers were caught as they tried to escape on foot. “As we approached, one of the robbers tried to shoot but the bullet appeared to be stuck in the gun’s chamber,” said Azam Hayat, station house officer (SHO) of the Shahrah-i-Noor Jehan police station. “We did our best and rescued the men while they were still alive. One of them died in the hospital while the other is being treated.” The SHO added that during the police’s rescue efforts, the enraged mob also attacked a police ASI and a constable, who were taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for treatment.

He was unable to speculate on what prompted citizens to take such an extreme step as to set the men on fire, but said that he was confident about lodging a case against unknown persons after the medical formalities had been completed.

By the time the police arrived with two ambulances, the two criminals were already in a precarious condition. They were first taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where doctors suggested that they be taken to the Burns Ward of the Civil Hospital. One of the robbers expired within minutes of reaching the facility.

“Burn-inflicted wounds are the apparent cause of Danish’s death,” said Dr Nisar Ali Shah, the medico-legal officer at Civil Hospital. “The other victim is also in a critical state since he sustained serious burns as well as head injuries when he was beaten up.”

Desperate citizenry

As Imran fights for his life at the hospital, the police authorities move against the people involved in the brutal incident.

“These sorts of reactions cannot be justified whatever the case,” said Sultan Salahuddin Babar Khattak, the Capital City Police Officer. “We have gathered some facts and will soon be lodging a case before arresting suspects, as we did in the Eidgah case.”

Mr Khattak maintained that any citizens’ reaction which challenged the law and order situation and violated the law would be taken up seriously by the police. “The people found to have been involved in the incident will be punished under the relevant law,” he added.

The authorities’ argument may meet the spirit of the law but experts believe that harsh ground realities and the deteriorating performance of the police force have led to the current situation, which seems to be beyond the control of the law enforcers.

“It is the psyche of a human being that if he’s pushed to the wall, he can react in an unexpected manner,” observed renowned psychiatrist Dr Haroon Ahmed. “The people of Pakistan in general and this city in particular are in a state of mind where they feel insecure and under-privileged.”

Saying that there was no justification for brutal acts such as these, Dr Ahmed pointed out that the situation could not be reversed through the implementation of the existing laws, which treated people in different classes: the poor and the privileged.