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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 751, 22 April 2024

Sindh's Dacoit Problem



The dacoit problem in Sindh is not a novel phenomenon

Rohini Reenum

PR Explainer
What has happened?
On 7 April, the Sindh Inspector General of Police Ghulam Nabi Memon briefed the media on his department’s ongoing struggle against the dacoit gangs of Sindh. He revealed that his department had been incurring heavy losses, ‘both in men and material’ due to the gangs’ access to sophisticated weapons. He also stated that the Sindh government was in the process of procuring advanced weaponry from Turkey and that the consignment would be delivered in the next two weeks. Memon was speaking to the media after presiding over a high-level meeting to discuss the successes and failures of ‘months-long-operations’ that had been launched in September 2023 in the upper Sindh region against riverine area gangs.
 
On 18 March, dacoits had shot and killed a primary schoolteacher who had been on his way to a school in the village of Kandhkot-Kashmore. This area had been marked as a ‘no-go’ area by the dacoits. Despite the threat, the school teacher, Allah Rakhiyo Nandwani, had been defiantly fulfilling his duty and had documented his journey online garnering immense respect. His killing sparked outrage on social media with scathing criticism directed against the district police and urgent calls for an immediate army operation in the region by opposition parties.
 
What is the problem?
The dacoit problem in Sindh is not a novel phenomenon. The ‘epicentre of this epidemic’ is the kacho area of Kashmore district. Their modus operandi includes- kidnapping for ransom, torture, brutality and Killing. Since 2015, the dacoits have increasingly used ‘honey-trapping’ and offered fake job opportunities to target the youth.  The kidnapping of Hindu members for ransom has also given an ethnic dimension to the problem. More than 60 individuals have fallen victim to the machinations of these dacoits this year alone. According to an editorial in Dawn, the problem is cyclical and ‘every few years, Sindh’s dacoit problem becomes too big to ignore’ as the violence perpetrated by them becomes ‘too egregious to overlook’, and their operational impunity ‘too shocking to brush under the carpet.’ The problem is historical and has an important political dimension. The editorial reveals that the origin of the problem can be traced back to the 1980s when Gen Ziaul Haq ‘gave a free hand to the outlaws’ in Sindh which was the epicentre of the resistance movement against his military regime. Subsequently, the ‘political opponents’ of PPP in the region have provided patronage to the dacoits in order to ‘keep parts of interior Sindh’ in a constant state of ‘lawlessness’ to project the failure of the party in the province. Increasingly, there are also allegations of ‘nexus between certain Sindh cabinet members and notorious criminals of the area,’ which has led to a situation of complete lawlessness. The role of feudal lords and tribal chiefs has also come under question in regard to their purported support for the dacoits. The geography of the region which consists of dense riverine forests has also acted as a haven for the dacoits and made counter operations difficult.
 
What has been the response?
The killing of the school teacher led to urgent calls for launching an immediate army operation on all the opposition parties including the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i-Islami, Grand Democratic Alliance, Awami Tehreek and Sindh United Party. At a recent conference organized by the Awami Tehreek, speakers highlighted the continued killings and kidnappings in the region despite police deployment. They lamented the role of feudal lords and cabinet members in harbouring the dacoits and the presence of a weapons black market in the region which facilitated the dacoits. In order to deal with the situation, the Sindh Apex Committee has given a go-ahead for multiple operations in the affected areas. However, the process has been stymied for two reasons: the lack of comparable advanced weaponry and the pending of the NOC required for the purchase of this weaponry with the Interior ministry. The assurance provided by the Sindh Inspector General of Police Ghulam Nabi Memon regarding the imminent arrival of matching weaponry is welcome news. However, given the historical and political nature of the problem, including the involvement of different powerful actors, it is imperative that the client-patronage nexus be targeted for any effective long-term solution to the problem.
 
References
Fear, uncertainty, the law of jungle,” Dawn, 30 March 2024;
“People of Sindh losing resources to dacoit gangs, patrons,” Dawn, 30 March 2024;
Tahir Siddiqui, “Clamour for action as opposition parties slam ‘bandit rule’ in Sindh,” Dawn, 20 March 2024;
Bandits in Kandhkot-Kashmore kill teacher who defied their ‘rule’ by going to school in no-go area,” Dawn, 19 March 2024;
Mohammad Hussain Khan & Tahir Siddiqui, “Stage set for massive operation against gangs in Sindh riverine areas,” Dawn, 19 September 2023;
Sindh’s dacoits,” Dawn, 27 May 2021

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