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SAHIWAL, Nov 7: The penchant for watching a cockfight drove a man to his grave on Friday as police resorted to a baton-charge on close to 300 people on a report that gambling was going on in a traditional mela annually held at Chak 7/4-R.

Noor Shah police later forcefully tried to stop victim’s family, relatives and villagers from staging a protest demonstration. The body of Allah Ditta, 44, of Basti Murad Shah, remained lying in the open on the lawns of the DHQ Hospital.

Reports said that Allah Ditta along with his three friends and a cousin had gone to watch a kabadi match at the mela. Since the match was to be started late, they decided to watch a cockfight at a nearby Government Boys Middle School.

An eyewitness said that some 300 people were sitting in a circle to watch the cockfight. He said suddenly four policemen raided the venue on the report that cock owners were involved in gambling.

He said that SI Arif Bhatti, ASI Mushtaq Ahmed and two other policemen, who arrived in a van, started baton-charge on the mob. In a panic, the people ran for their life in every direction. Allah Ditta tried to jump over the boundary wall of the school, but a severe blow of a baton on his neck failed him in his effort.

SI Arif Bhatti later caught hold of him from his collar and hit another baton and a butt of his gun which proved fatal for him. He fell on the ground and became unconscious.

His cousin Muhammad Nazim said that the final two blows by the SI caused the instant death of Ditta.

The policemen beat a hasty retreat when enraged villagers started returning after learning about Ditta’s death.

Noor Shah police later sent Inspector Ghulam Mahiyudin to take the body into custody, but the villagers resisted and handed the body over to his family after their arrival from Basti Murad Shah. The family brought the body to the DHQ Hospital for postmortem. The police also reached there and asked doctors not to conduct the postmortem.

When contacted, the Noor Shah police station reader said: “We received calls that gambling was going on in the cockfight. Our officials sent ASI Mushtaq Ahmed and three other policemen to see the situation.”

He claimed that Allah Ditta had not died due to the police baton-charge but his death occurred owing to his falling from the school boundary wall.

Inspector Ghulam Mohiyudin said that doctors were asked to conduct the postmortem and any action would be taken in the light of its report.

BURNS: A man received burns when his rivals set his plastic sheets shop ablaze by throwing ‘petrol bombs’ allegedly over a property dispute in the fish market area here on Friday. The assailants also looted Rs62,000 in cash before fleeing.

Usman Ali had a dispute with his cousin, Fahad, over the title of the shop. At around 5pm on Friday, Fahad along with three accomplices stormed the shop when Usman’s younger brother Imran was sitting there.

The assailants took Irman on gunpoint, snatched Rs62,000 in cash and later threw ‘petrol bombs’ setting the shop ablaze.

Locals extinguished the fire before it engulfed the whole shop. Imran received severe burns and was taken to DHQ Hospital.

Shopkeepers also closed down their businesses to protest the incident. No case had been registered by the city police till the filing of this report.