By Armughan Naeem Khan.
A tale of stubborn attitudes, political gimmick and undertaking undue venture which cost lives to no avail….!!!
That wasn’t long ago when media was crackling with the news of Chotu Gang in Rajanpur District of Southern Punjab. This Chotu balloon was so grossly inflated to an extent that it occupied bulk of the media space almost close to a live telecast of ongoing operation. A lot of questions were being raised about Punjab police’s inefficiency, poor planning, lack of training etc. These facts added up to the whole operation being a failure, but what remained hidden or at least a shoddy attempt was made to keep the unwanted things hidden from the eyes of masses. Later on, when things no longer remained hidden, another phase of shoddy damage control process kicked off. The only effective step undertaken by the ruling elite in damage control phase was to systematically diminish away the news from main stream media, in which they were quite successful.
The operation was launched under tremendous pressure built after Lahore blast, which forced Pakistan Army to initiate military operation in different areas of the Punjab. In the meanwhile Punjab government decided to go ahead with Rajanpur operation with a clear message that we can conduct operation with the help of Punjab Police and Elite Force operated under Punjab government and military is not needed in Punjab. Additionally, it was also in mind to give a message to all opposition parties like MQM and PPP that we are doing operations in South Punjab and no one will be spared.
Rajanpur is located on the eastern bank of river Indus. Banks of Indus on both eastern and western side, right up to Kotri barrage in Hyderabad are known for dacoit hideouts due to marshy areas, jungles, elephant grass and wild growth which provides lot of cover and ground folds. This Indus bank area is commonly known as “kachay ka ilaqa” کچے کا علاقہ . Operation in this area is extremely difficult. Many famous dacoits worth millions of head money have nourished and inhabited in this area. Chotu is one such dacoit of Saraiki – Sindhi origin. He had been on the pay role of Punjab government for quite long, mainly to run their errands which fall beyond the limits of law precisely into the category of outlaw, to include patronized suppression of opponents. But now under pressure, Punjab government disowned him. Best way was to get him killed in police operation but Chotu was no fool. He knew the plan of his killing too well and that is why he said he would only surrender before the military. Now Chotu going alive into military’s hand meant a disaster to ruling elite, since he would become another Uzair Baloch and start singing on military tunes revealing the filthy secrets of his masters.
What the brilliant masterminds grossly overlooked was that it was not an ordinary police chaapaa, it was a complete tactical battle which even military won’t undertake without gunship helicopters, tanks, armored cars with long range artillery and air force jets on standing by.
Rulers’ brilliance took them to take on this operation with Elite Force and Punjab Police alone with IGP Punjab being in charge of the operation. This marvelous piece of planning was being closely watched at military setup. There was a big concern in the Corps Commander’s meeting, since it was an ill planned, suicidal and outrageous operation planned by Punjab Police who didn’t even know the ABC of military operations. After paying respect to soon would be dead policemen, it was decided that the military would keep itself ready, just in case.
IGP Punjab is an experienced police officer with expertise in criminology and policing, but he was not a trained military commander. Neither was his force equipped and trained on this kind of operation that requires backup support of military hardware. Terrain information is of foremost importance in such operation. Without considering extreme terrain friction and logistics, 1600 policemen were launched into this operation with non professional strategists remote controlling the battle sitting at Lahore. Result was as expected, police failed to make any headway even after eighteen days which brought extreme embarrassment for Punjab Police and ultimately had to ask military to get them out of this trouble, but that was too late as Police Force already lost 8 Police Staff members and on top of that 30 men in uniform were taken hostage along with weapons and equipment. This is the point where Punjab Police was forced to negotiate with Chotu.
Due to poor logistics, policemen didn’t get proper food and water for days. After using policemen as gun fodder and after spoiling the things, Punjab Police had no choice but to ask for military help to avoid further embarrassment and life of loss. Soon as the military came in scene, Chotu’s men started surrendering. No wonder, people of Rajanpur distributed sweets when military came to take over.
Chotu is now in Pakistan Army’s custody, but this whole story has been hushed away. Who knows what pops out in future and what important information he will reveal?
The writer is a free lancer and can be contacted through email