Why police fail to fight hornet's nest in Katcha area?

Why police fail to fight hornet's nest in Katcha area?


On March 19 last, robbers gunned down schoolteacher Allah Rakhiyo when he was on way to school

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By Saleem Mubarak

Footages are circulating on social media and news channels, featuring persons detained by criminals in the Katcha area bordering Punjab and Sindh provinces.

The disturbing clips show detainees chained with guns pointed at their heads. A man is whipping them, causing them to cry out in pain.

These footages are said to have been released by criminals hiding in the Katcha area. The images remind one of the operation the Punjab and Sindh police jointly launched in April last year.

Katcha Area: A haven for criminals

The riverine area known as Katcha spreads over 15,000 square kilometres on both sides of the Indus river.

Hardened criminals have been using this marshland for a long time to carry out their unlawful activities, evading the clutches of the law.

They commit criminal activities in riverine areas with impunity, taking advantage of a lack of modern facilities for police to launch an operation against them.

On March 19 last, robbers gunned down schoolteacher Allah Rakhiyo when he was on way to his primary school.

Just two days before his killing, a video went viral on social media depicting Allah Rakhiyo going to school carrying a gun.

Also Read: Netizens remember unsung hero Allah Rakhiyo on Pakistan Day

In September 2022, five police officers were killed in Ghotki, Sindh allegedly by criminals in riverine areas.

Sources told this reporter that police lacked sophisticated weapons and tools to combat the hardened criminals in Katcha areas where they are holding kidnapped people.

Precision target drones are mandatory to attack criminals remotely rather than entering into these no-go areas where criminals are equipped even with mortar guns and other modern weapons.

Dunya News spoke to police officials to ascertain the facts of how these criminals managed to regroup in the areas even after a long intelligence-based operation last year in the second week of April.

The emergence of the recent footages raises questions about the effectiveness of last year's operation.

Renewed Efforts

Bahawalpur Regional Police Officer Rai Babar Saeed told Dunya News that the Punjab government had earmarked more than Rs1 billion to construct multiple posts in the riverine areas. He said the facility would help police a lot to ensure peace in the area where criminals had been issuing life threats, kidnapping people for ransom and receiving extortion before last year’s operation.

He said the areas could not be accessed easily due to various reasons. He said modern weapons such as precision target drones were mandatory to combat such criminals, however police had only surveillance drones.

He said four hard-to-reach districts of Sindh are Ghotki, Sukkur, Shikarpur and Kashmore which provide safe havens to outlaws.

Read Also: CM Naqvi orders operation to wipe off robbers in katcha area

Rangers participation

Hundreds of policemen took part in the operation which lasted a couple of weeks. The Sindh Rangers also assisted police in clearing the areas of criminals, including those involved in the killing of Hafiz Jan Muhammad, a senior journalist who was attached with a regional news channel.

Hafiz Jan Muhammad was gunned down in Sukkur, Sindh, on Aug 13 last year. He was shot multiple times by unidentified criminals riding a motorcycle.

As many as 3,000 soldiers were deployed in the area during the operation at the end of which police officials claimed that criminal elements had been eradicated.

When the operation was on, Punjab IGP Dr Usman Anwar at a presser said that following intelligence the operation had been launched against the outlaws. He claimed that the operation continued for a couple of months.

He said during the operation it was found that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants had also been using the Katcha areas.

A senior journalist told Dunya News that it’s a question mark on the efficiency of law-enforcement agencies who had failed to prevent the reunion of criminals. He asked when the entire area was cleared, how robbers and kidnappers again gained hold in the restive area.

He said it's ironic that such criminals used mobile phones but our LEAs were unable to trace their locations.

A police officer, who remained part of the Katcha operation during his posting in Rajanpur, said police pickets such as Bahar Machi, Nozband, Attaullah Put, and Patan Chandio were established during the operation. He said the senior police officials also visited the pickets several times to check the facilities being provided to the policemen deployed there.

He said scores of operations had been conducted against these criminals in the past but no permanent solution was put in place. He said the situation demanded use of modern tools like signal jammers, wireless spy cameras, Radio Frequency Identification Tags, Satellite Imaging, and next-generation robotic cameras.

“Without a major shift in operational techniques, we cannot completely control such unscrupulous elements,” the officer claimed.

A crime reporter of a news channel said that immediately after the operation it was necessary to establish pickets in the area to check the movement of unscrupulous elements. He said without monitoring the movement and transportation, one cannot ensure that the entire area would remain safe and no illegal activity would be committed there.

Modern Technology: A necessity

DIG Babar Saeed said with the help of drones police could remotely analyse the ground realities rather than relying on human intelligence. He said police also found it difficult to install agents for human intelligence due to multiple reasons.

“The target drones are easy to operate for eliminating the criminals who are playing with the lives of the masses,” he said.

"Majority of the criminals leave open areas of Katcha when they come to know that police can target them with the help of drones any time. Currently, they know that police officials are unable to move against them remotely," he added.

Honey trap modus operandi

Elaborating on the modus operandi of the criminals, he said they kidnapped people through honey-trap by using social media platforms and digital buying and selling points.

A police officer serving in the Sindh police said the criminals managed to regroup in the Katcha areas due to inconsistent posting of senior police officers in respective areas.

He said: “We need to rely on modern technology like drones, spy cameras, and the latest armored personnel carriers to completely eliminate the criminals' hideouts.”

After the killing of the schoolteacher, Sindh Home Minister Ziaul Hasan, while speaking to the media, claimed that the operation in the Katcha area was in its final stage.