The demise of Chotu

Along with trust in Punjab police

Ghulam Rasool also known as Chotu surrendered to the Pakistan Army this week, after much aggravation.

Chotu was definitely more trouble than his name would suggest, a simple security guard who worked for MPA Atif Mazari in Rojhan for about five years now led the Chotu gang, which the police force of three provinces combined could not handle.

 

Almost eight years since the fight began; Chotu has grown from a gang that bred on theft to kidnappings and now to a national treat, with the support of informers within the police department and political and anti-national elements

 

Rasool was also a Punjab police informer till 2007, tipping them off about gangs involved in robberies and kidnapping for ransom in Rajanpur and Muzaffargarh districts.

Rasool, who belongs to the Bakrani clan of Mazari tribe of Rojhan area, become the Chotu gang leader over differences with the police. He established his own gang to carry out criminal activities. He was joined by small and prominent gangs operating in Rojhan, Dera Ghazi Khan and adjoining districts of Sindh and Balochistan, making it even harder for the Punjab police force to get rid of the Chotu gang.

“We have been fighting the Chotu gang since 2007, but due to his links inside the police department, with politicians and anti-national elements it became hard for the police force to capture them,” Zohaib*, a police official who was part of the Chotu gang operation until 2013 told DNA.

Almost eight years since the fight began; Chotu has grown from a gang that bred on theft to kidnappings and now to a national treat, with the support of informers within the police department and political and anti-national elements.

In 2011, the Punjab police started grand operations against the gang and its assailants. Some 30 team mates and informers of the gang were killed; even some police officers were martyred.

“The inevitable cleanse of the area was not possible due to many reasons, mainly the support of Indian and Balochi elements with the gang,” said Zohaib.

Earlier, Punjab Inspector-General (IG) Mushtaq Sukhera claimed that the police officers had been given complete combat training and ammunition for tackling the gang.

In a press conference in Rahim Yar Khan, Sukhera said the operation had been initiated with a strategy, adding that success or failure was ultimately in the hands of Allah.

 

Chotu claims that he was supported by local government officials; he did their dirty laundry for them and in turn was allowed to rule his area without any interruptions until he turned his back on them

 

But the lack of state of the art weaponry was another major reason for their failure. “In 2007 the gang attacked the officers with an anti-air craft gun, our officials got hit some of them died. We received the same guns in 2011,” he stated.

The lack of latest weaponry and training, point fingers at the institutions that operate these systems.

“For the many challenges to be faced by the security forces (police) they are not prepared for them,” Hasan Askari, a defence analyst, said while talking to DNA.

The police, among many others, are politicised as the appointments and transfers are all done by MNA’s and MPA’s as per their wishes. “Politicised services are always the weakest,” said Askari.

The efficiency of the army cannot be compared to that of the police force, as they both have separate duties. It is, however, unfortunate that the army has to intervene every now and then even after claims by the CM Punjab that no assistance is needed.

“We had asked the army to get hold of the gang much earlier, but due to disputes between the high ups, the process was delayed. It could have been spotted and handled much earlier,” Zohaib clarifies.

The common man is at the mercy of the police, the episode of Chotu gang portrayed at large the weakness of these protectors. These shortcomings need to be fulfilled on priority basis for the well-being of the people.

“These shortcomings won’t ever be taken care of,” said Askari. “A strong police force would be the undoing of these political leaders, hence that would never be possible”.

For a stronger force, Hasan Askari mentions three points in his address,

  1. The appointments and transfer of all police forces shouldn’t be political
  2. Upgrade the police training and weaponry
  3. Do not breed criminals elements under institutions

Chotu claims that he was supported by local government officials; he did their dirty laundry for them and in turn was allowed to rule his area without any interruptions until he turned his back on them.

“As these gangs grow, they develop higher links and have no need of political parties who were their pioneers. It should not be the place for political leaders to fuel these gangs for their own interest. It hurts the public at large when such things are born,” added Askari.

“By making elite, dolphin forces the government only gains publicity and nothing substantial”.

On Wednesday the Punjab government decided to form a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) headed by a senior officer. The JIT will investigate all the cases registered against the Chotu gang.

It will also probe into the failure of the Punjab police in the operation and other issues related to the gang.

 

*The name of the police official has been changed to protect identity


Originally Published in Pakistan Today

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