The police have rounded up several influential people, suspected of sheltering Chotu Mazari gang and gave them an ultimatum to trace the gang and help recover the eight police personnel taken hostage a few days ago, or face the consequences, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Police seem to believe that Chotu Mazari has evaded capture with their help. His cell phone has been switched off ever since the talks broke down.
Police teams from eight divisions have cordoned the area from Dera Mor Kashmore to Shahwali Rojhan for three days, under the leadership of regional police officers of DG Khan and Bahawalpur.
On Thursday, the Pakistan Army provided police with two gunship helicopters to look for the gang. On Friday, the helicopters took several rounds of the stretch from Koh-i-Suleman to Rojhan Mazari, but did not find the nearly 60 bandits, eight police hostages and three civilians kidnapped earlier.
Police officers speaking anonymously said the influentials had been given an ultimatum to hand over the gang members or get them to free police hostages. They had been told that they would face consequences if the police hostages were not returned.
Police have cordoned off the area and restricted the movement of locals. The search is currently focused on the Sindh border. DG Khan RPO Umar Akhtar Hayat Laleka told The Express Tribune that the police had only detained those suspected of aiding and abetting the gang. The matter would be resolved in a few days, he said. He said the fact that Mazari’s phone remained switched off indicated that he was still in the area.
He said police would continue the search till the hostages were recovered. He said the police had raided the residence of Addo Shah near Guddu Barrage in the Shah Wali precinct, but did not find Mazari.
The three civilian hostages Dr Wazir Khan, his son Shahzaib Khan, 18, and their driver were kidnapped three months ago by the Chotu Mazari gang. Dr Khan’s son, Tahir Khan, told The Express Tribune on Friday that his father had been taken to the Koh-i-Suleman area.
“If the army provides gunship helicopters, I could take them to Mazari’s hideout,” he said.
Tahir Khan said that Mazari had spoken to him over the phone. He said Mazari had asked him to pay a Rs500 million ransom, but he could not afford it. He said later police had arrested three of Mazari’s companions and seized a vehicle. Mazari had later negotiated with Tahir Khan and the police, and offered to release the hostages for Rs3 million.
He said the negotiations between Mazari and the police had fallen through over a trifle. Police had said that they would release two of Mazari’s men while Mazari had demanded the release of all three. “The police are responsible for the delay in the release of my father and brother,” he said.
On Saturday, the bandits had captured the three river islands of Kacah Karachi, Baggiani and Kachi Jamal and taken nine police personnel hostage. One of them was later killed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.