At last the Chotu saga has ended after the Pakistan Army has started against Chotu gang in riverine area of Tehsil Rojhan. Chotu gang was forced to surrender before Pak Army. All the 24 captive policemen taken hostage were rescued safely, to everyone’s relief. Earlier the police has conducted four operations against this gang in the past years but of no use. They were forced to retreat or give safe passage to the gang, after receiving losses from the gangsters in shape of human lives or police hostages. In the present action the police lost the lives of seven jawans and 28 policemen were taken hostage, out which four injured policeman were released by the gang. It is thanks to the Pakistan Army that the gang was defeated. Questions have subsequently arisen about the capability and shortcomings of the Punjab police to handle criminal groups. It has been proved in this operation that the police force needs a thorough overhaul of its structure and training.

Tehsil Rojhan, which is situated at the juncture of three provinces, has been a very important place historically, culturally and politically.

This area sent clean, characterful and honest politicians in the parliament who earned lot of respect nationally and internationally. The founder of the word ‘Pakistan’ Chaudhry Rehmat Ali spent 15 years of his life as secretary of then Mazari Chief Mir Dost Muhammad Khan who then sent him to England on his expenses where he started politics and became an active advocate of Pakistan movement and wrote his famous pamphlet ‘now or never’ in England. In 1830s Maharaja Ranjeet Singh wanted to spread his reign to Sindh, it was Mazari tribe who stopped him entering Sind. The strong Sikh rulers were forced to enter in an agreement with Mir Behram Khan Mazari. In this way Mazaries were the people who stopped the advancement of Sikhs to Sindh. According to renowned author Ghulam Rasool Mahar’s book on history, ‘Tehreek e Mujahideen’ when Syed Ahmed Shaheed (Shaheed-e-Balakot) heard the stories he came to Rojhan and offered his support against the Sikhs but the Mazaris did not accept his offer. They had already entered into an agreement with the Sikhs and as per tribal traditions they refused to betray them.

Unluckily, this area of brave and famous people is in the limelight due to the Chotu gang, which is very painful for the educated people in the area. Last year I was traveling alone from Lahore to Rojhan. When I was crossing the police barriers established for checking at Thokar Niazbeg, a police personnel requested me to take him upto Patoki. I gave him a lift. When he came to know that I am from Rojhan, he told that he had heard the name of Rojhan as the area of Chotu. I felt ashamed that my area was seen the home of a bandit. Adding insult to injury on the same day, I also gave lift to a student from Sahiwal to Chichawatni. I was again embarrassed by the mention of Chotu. Some years ago this area was also the talk of the media due to clerics of Lal Masjid belonging to Sodwani caste (a sub tribe of Mazari tribe of Tehsil Rojhan) who created unrest in the capital.

Coming to Chotu; he is a Bakrani by caste. Bakrani caste is not part of the Mazari tribe. Chotu was initially not a dacoit, however his brother Shobi had links with Kabul the Chachar gang in Sindh. Kabul Chachar was a notorious dacoit who killed 8 people of the Kosh tribe in the late 1980s. Chachar was killed by an anti-dacoit force and Shobi was sent to Bahawalpur jail. Chotu at that time was working as waiter in a hotel in Kashmore. Afterward Chotu went to Rahim Yar Khan, and some people say that he got education in a maddrsah run by Malik Ishaq. Inspired by Malik Ishaq, his brother Shobi and retaliation to some police officials of Police Station Shahwali Tehsil Rojhan, Chotu started criminal activities.

For some time he joined Baba Long Lathani gang of Tehsil Rojhan Kacha areas. Later on he formed his own gang. Baba Long was also symbol of terror in this area in late 1990s and early 2000. Some police officers of 1999-2000 had good relations with Baba Long. The DSP Rojhan posted at that time used to go to Baba Long’s hideout and used to receive his share. Baba Long used to roam freely in adjoining areas and policemen used to salute him. In 2004-5 Baba Long and some other members of the group surrendered themselves on a promise by ASP Sadiqabad and DPO Rajanpur with promises of amnesty. Most of the cases against them were withdrawn and in some cases they were acquitted by courts on insufficient proofs, as the police favored them a lot in challans. Some members of this group who did not surrender, either formed their own groups or joined Chotu group. The Chotu gang got strength day by day. He started heinous crimes like murder and kidnapping for ransom. He also abducted Chinese engineers working on an electricity project. Other gangs started joining up and ranks swelled. Some people say that some extremist elements fighting with Pak Army are also hiding there and they joined hands with Chotu Gang.

The police started operations against this group in 2010 but the police was unsuccessful. In the 2010 operation Chotu made police officials hostage and released them after negotiations when he was given safe passage to the Barkhan District of Balochistan. Actually it was a humiliation for the Punjab Police, but then DPO Rahim Yar Khan Sohail Tajak propagated it as a major success.

For some period Chotu remained in Barkhan district of Balochistan where his brother Shobi was killed in a fight with locals. Afterwards Chotu shifted to a hide out of another bandit Murreda Nohkani (a sub tribe of Gorchani tribe) at the border area of District Rajanpur and Balochistan. Last year he came back to his original place, Kacha Jamal, and occupied some police posts. He also started criminal activities in the area. Almost 3 weeks ago Punjab Police under the command of IG Police Punjab started an operation with 1600 police personnel in Kacha Jamal. Few days before a police party tried to enter Kacha Jamal but lost seven lives while 28 policemen were taken as hostage by this gang out of which four injured personnel were released by this gang afterwards. Last Friday the Army reached the area and led the operation and was successful.

The game is not over yet. It is also necessary for law enforcing agencies to make sure that all other gangster groups active in this area, must be eliminated. The main cause for formation of such groups is exploitation from influenced people backed by police; secondly the land mafia is also responsible for the creation of gangster groups. Chotu is now part of history but one should not forget the sacrifices of brave police officers that lost their lives and threw themselves in the mouth of evil despite having limited resources against a well equipped enemy.