The mob attack at a guesthouse-cum-residence of revenue official Majid Khaskheli in Qasimabad town of Hyderabad on October 15 has laid bare the lack of readiness of the Hyderabad police in handling such situations.
Hyderabad's Deputy Commissioner Fuad Ghaffar Soomro has also acknowledged this weakness." This unfortunate incident suggests that Hyderabad police is severely understaffed," reads a letter written to the Hyderabad commissioner for onward submission of a report to the Sindh chief minister.
The DC noted that the tendency of mob attacks and blocking of highways, like the more than five hours of gridlock on the Hyderabad bypass on October 15 by enraged protesters, is growing.
The mob allegedly attacked Khaskheli's place in reaction to the death of 16-year-old Muhammad Usman, son of Muhammad Ismail Soomro, who was killed by a gunshot. He worked at the revenue official's home as a gardener. The official has been accused of killing the boy, but denied any involvement and termed the death a suicide.
The DC also wrote that due to the recent actions of revenue officials, such as removing encroachments and enforcing Covid-19 related lockdowns, some elements in society try to settle personal scores with them.
He requested the chief secretary and IGP Sindh to provide an anti-riot force to Hyderabad, besides increasing the existing strength of policemen in the district and providing at least two guards to assistant commissioners and mukhtiarkars.
The Hyderabad police have lodged an FIR on the complaint of inspector Inam Hussain Junejo at the Naseem Nagar checkpost of Qasimabad police station, charging 17 persons with names in addition to 30 unknown.
According to the FIR and the incident report which SSP Hyderabad Sajid Amir Sadozai submitted to the Sindh police inspector general, the police received information about the incident at 8 am and they left the police station at 9 am for Khaskheli's place.
They reached there at 950 am where Khaskheli, his brother and two servants were present. They took the police to a room where the body of Usman was lying on a bed with the official's licensed rifle by his side. The police seized the rifle and its spent shell.
As they were awaiting arrival of an ambulance to shift the body for postmortem to Liaquat University Hospital a mob of local Soomro community charged at the house. They began mercilessly beating Khaskheli and his brother Wajid. They hit them with wooden batons, kicks and punches besides abusing them as well.
Their shirts were torn apart, including the uniform of sub inspector Junejo. In a video circulated on social media, Mukhtiarkar is seen lying prostrate on the lawn with the cop standing over him to protect him against the repeated attacks. The inspector also sustained injuries.
"The mob also attacked the police, resulting in injuries to inspector Inam Junejo," reads the incident report of SSP Hyderabad. The other policemen were also allegedly pelted with stones. They torched some things inside the house, besides causing damage to a car and other materials.
The crowd took away the dead body and staged a sit-in protest on Hyderabad bypass, which connects Karachi with the upcountry via the M9 Motorway and the National highway. They dispersed after assurance of the arrest of the two brothers, who were already admitted by that time to a private hospital in Karachi due to severe injuries sustained in the assault. The case was lodged on the complaint of the boy's father in which he blamed the two brothers of cold blooded murder.
The police have still not declared any arrests in either of the two FIRs of the alleged murder and the mob assault.
On Friday, it was reported that the alleged theft of a peacock resulted in the death of the boy and serious injuries to a revenue official.
The devastated father of 16-years-old Muhammad Usman Soomro told the police that his son worked as a gardener at the farmhouse of Qasimabad Taluka Mukhtiarkar Majid Khaskheli.
Ismail Soomro claimed in the FIR lodged at Naseem Nagar check post of Qasimabad Police Station that Majid and his brother Wajid Khaskheli called them to their house. "When we reached, they began abusing my son, accusing him of stealing their peacock. The argument heated up and they brought their gun and fired shot at my son who died on the spot."
Enraged over the alleged murder, the Soomros went to the Khaskheli's house and thrashed them. The boy's family and community blocked Hyderabad bypass by holding a sit-in with the body accusing Majid and Wajid Khaskheli of murder.
The Khaskheli brothers, meanwhile, claimed that the boy committed suicide.
"We came to know today morning that the boy's dead body has been found at our place. Around 8am we heard a gunshot and my son told me that Usman is dead," the injured Khaskheli, whose mob assault has been recorded in a video, told a news channel in a hospital.
He said that he requested Deputy Commissioner to ask SSP to send a police team to collect forensic samples of the gun which was used in the assault. He added that three police mobiles, including forensic personnel, reached his home.
However, by that time the local Soomro community had gathered outside his residence. "They called out my father who explained to them what happened, but they didn't listen and attacked me and my family."
Earlier, the local community blocked the bypass, which connects M9 motorway with National Highway, demanding registration of FIR and arrest of the two brothers. Meanwhile, vehicles queued up for up to 8 kilometers on the bypass. The situation lasted for over five hours when protesters dispersed after receiving assurance of police action.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2021.
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