Home Crime Sindh under the Daku Raj!!!

Sindh under the Daku Raj!!!

Sindh under the Daku Raj!!!
Screen shot from a video circulating on social media showing the bandits

It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that four districts of upper Sindh, and adjoining southern parts of Punjab, are virtually ruled by the outlaws    

By Nasir Aijaz 
“It is difficult to define an outlaw in a country where there is no law” – American author Zane Grey (1872 – 1939) writes in his book “Robbers’ Roost”

The scenario of Pakistan in general, and Sindh in particular, matches to what Zane Grey has portrayed in above single sentence. Let’s discuss what is happening here in our own country, where there exists no law, no order.

Pakistan film industry produced in the past a large number of movies based on the stories of outlaws, locally called as Daku, Dakait in Punjabi and Urdu, or Dacoits, as adopted in English, and Dhaarrail in Sindhi language. In certain movies the outlaws were glorified presenting them as pro-poor who robbed the rich and helped the peasants, oppressed by the feudal lords. One of such Punjabi language movies was Daku Raj, released for screening in 1992.

I don’t know the exact story of that movie but its title suggests that it was about a notorious bandit who ruled certain areas and had created panic. Those movies of the past are no more screened in the Pakistani cinemas but the term ‘Daku Raj’ reverberates even today through dozens of videos uploaded on YouTube by you-tubers depicting the current terrifying situation that prevails in Sindh province.

Reign of Terror prevails   

more-than-30-hindus-held-hostage-by-bandits-in-sindhLike the Robin Hood, a legendary figure in English folklore, known for being a skilled archer and swordsman who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor (Although, the historians are still unclear if he was a real person or a fictional character), there were times when Sindh too had certain outlaws notorious for their terrifying acts, but depicted in literature, media and films, as a symbol of justice and standing up for the oppressed. Such outlaws had certain values – they never robbed the women or kidnapped the children for ransom. Alas, such values vanished with change of times – now the highwaymen do not spare anyone. Men, women and children are robbed and kidnapped, showing no mercy, and are kept chained in miserable conditions at the hideouts in thick river forests of Sindh.

No Exaggeration         

It wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that four districts of upper Sindh, and adjoining southern parts of Punjab, are virtually under the Daku Raj. This contention is based on the reports appearing in print, electronic and social media, and also the official statements, which suggest that the outlaws rule the four districts of Sukkur and Larkana divisions, who used to kidnap the men, women and even the children for ransom, keep them in inhuman conditions in the thick forests along the River Indus and release the videos of hostages on social media after torturing them just to force their relatives for payment of ransom.


A number of cases of kidnapping for ransom also take place even in Karachi, the capital of the province, while the street crimes like the robberies, and snatching of cell-phones, cars and bikes are the order of the day across the province – but very surprisingly, the police and the rangers, a paramilitary force, are seen helpless or are deliberately inactive, as there seems no slight improvement, and grave law & order situation prevails.

Official statements suffice the fact

It is only in the official meetings that the high-ups of law enforcing agencies make tall claims of success in combating the criminals presenting fake data of their performance. However, the remarks of Interim Chief Minister of Sindh Mr. Maqbool Baqar do suffice very much to my contention, which he made while presiding over meetings on law & order situation. I will refer here to Chief Minister’s remarks and briefings of police officials.

On December 30, 2023, Chief Minister directed the Inspector General of Police Riffat Mukhtar and Additional IG Karachi Khadim Rind, to take measures to control kidnappings for ransom in the katcha (Riverine Forest) area and street crimes in Karachi.

“The citizens are losing confidence as they don’t feel safe on the roads and in open areas. I have repeatedly directed the police to ensure police patrolling but those instructions have not been complied in letter and spirit,” CM said.

Read: Sindh police to launch operation against dacoits in Katcha areas

“The kidnappings for ransom have again started taking place in katcha area of the Larkana and Sukkur divisions,” he added.

Let me quote another official press release issued from Chief Minister’s House, about a meeting with Home Minister, Home Secretary, IG Police and other high officials held a few days before the year-end meeting.

“Caretaker Chief Minister observed that the crime rate, particularly the street crime in Karachi and Hyderabad, has increased while the Sukkur and Larkana police ranges have shown no tangible progress in curbing bandits in the riverine areas.”

IG Police Riffat Mukhtar in his briefing said that during the year 2023, some 1660 people were killed, 229 kidnapped and 155 extortion cases were reported. Out of 229 kidnapping for ransom cases, 44 belonged to Karachi, three to Hyderabad, one Shaheed Benazirabad, 45 Sukkur, and 136 Larkana. He claimed that all the abducted persons have been recovered, except two of Sukkur, and one of Larkana. He claimed that kidnapping for ransom and road robberies have decreased by 90 percent because of focused strategy and targeted operation.

Read also: Sindh police seek billions for operation against dacoits in Katcha areas

Additional IG said that in September 2023, some 7949 cases of street crimes were registered, and claimed that in October such cases declined to 7613, and in November the number has further decreased to 5168. The mobile snatching cases in October were 2362 and in November the number came down to 1700. The police conducted 91 encounter cases in November in which 120 robbers were killed/injured.

The crime data presented by the police officials was nothing but the ‘jugglery of figures’, which they do as usual. The fact is that the crime rate is higher than reported by the officials. It’s an open truth that most of the victims of the robbery and snatching do not bother to report to the police because they know that instead of taking action against the criminals, the police would harass them.

The story doesn’t end here. Let me quote another official press release of October 24, 2023 wherein it was stated that the Caretaker Chief Minister, in a meeting held in Ghotki, the most troubled district, approved launching of a ‘Decisive Operation’ in the riverine forests to eliminate the gangs of outlaws. The Chief Minister was informed by the Home Minister and the IG Police that there were 14 gangs of bandits hiding in the forests. “A well-coordinated strategy has been finalized for launching the operation while 1680 police check-posts are being established in the forest areas,” he was told adding that three bandits were killed and 26 arrested in 49 encounters in Larkana police range alone.

Read more: Massive Anti-Dacoit Operation Launched in Riverine Forests across Sindh

Earlier on September 14, 2023, the provincial caretaker cabinet in its first formal meeting decided to launch a comprehensive joint operation with the Army and rangers to clear hideouts of dacoits, start a crackdown on organized weapon smuggling gangs, and strengthen intelligence gathering, and deny cyber and digital space to criminals for disconnecting their communication in the riverine area.

Sharing the data of 20123, the CM was told that 218 people were kidnapped, of them, 207 have been recovered and 11 were still in the clutches of the bandits. When the new IG police took over, there were 57 kidnappings, out of them police got 46 recovered and efforts were underway to recover the remaining 11 persons. He did not disclose how the hostages were freed or how many bandits arrested or killed while getting the hostages freed.

The cabinet was told that the dacoits in the Katcha area of four districts, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Ghotki, and Sukkur were holed up in inaccessible hideouts fortified by trenches and ditches.

The dacoits have long-range military-grade weapons effective against APCs. The Katcha area has 238 villages with a population of 400,000. The Sindh police have set up eight police stations and 20 check posts.

The IG police told the cabinet that they have a plan to establish 390 police posts in the four districts along the protective bund. The police would be equipped with the latest weapons and gadgets.

Read more: Anti-Dacoit Operation: One bandit killed, seven injured

Earlier, in one of its last cabinet meetings of PPP government, held on August 9, 2023, and chaired by then Chief Minister Murad Shah, it was informed that the government has deployed 4500 policemen in Indus riverine areas of four upper Sindh districts -Shikarpur, Kashmore, Sukkur and Ghotki districts, to combat the outlaws hiding there.

Home Secretary told the cabinet that controlling crime and nabbing criminals, operating in Katcha areas has remained a challenge. “To cope with the situation, one component of the strategy was to place police personnel in the area on a permanent basis,” he said.

Crime Data of 2023

In September 14 meeting, the cabinet was told that 12886 cases of street crime have been registered during 2023. The registered cases include 3178 mobile snatchings, 93 four-wheeler snatching, 758 four-wheeler theft, 2143 two-wheeler snatching, and 3457 two-wheeler theft. It was further informed that work Ghotki-Kandhkot Bridge over River Indus was suspended due to the kidnapping of two employees of the project work in June 2023.

Sindh police department has not yet updated the crime data for the year 2023 on its website, however it contains the statistics of previous years, and month-wise figures from January to October end. According to the website, a total of 76103 crimes including murder, theft, robberies, car/bike snatching and kidnapping etc. were registered during the year 2021. These crimes include 2467 cases of kidnapping/abduction, 46 cases of kidnapping for ransom and 279 cases of child-lifting. In the year 2022, a total of 65407 crimes of different nature were registered that included 2417 cases of kidnapping/abduction, 41 cases of kidnapping for ransom and 274 cases of child-lifting.

The crime data for the year 2023 from January 1 to October 31, neither shows the total number of crimes nor the cases of kidnapping for ransom, abduction and child-lifting, however it says that 136 cases of car snatching were reported during this period while only 16 cases of highway robberies and 113 cases of murder during robberies were registered. The absence of other data is deliberate attempt to keep the facts out of sight.

Anti-dacoit Operation

In fact, the anti-dacoit operation in the riverine forests was an ongoing process over the years, as claimed by the police, with no tangible results. Sometimes, the police released reports along with photos of the force positioned in riverine areas. The police had always been complaining of limited resources and outdated weapons, which resulted in loss of lives of many personnel during the encounters with bandits equipped with sophisticated weapons. It was in the last few cabinet meetings of PPP government held in July and the first half of August 2023 when approval was given to launch massive anti-dacoit operation deploying 4500 policemen in the riverine areas of three districts. However, practical steps could not be taken as the provincial assembly and the cabinet were dissolved and a caretaker setup was installed. The interim cabinet too took up the issue afresh and final approval was given for launch of operation after at least three consequent meetings, but no such activity is seen so far, which is evident from a sentence of a police officer, who according to official handout of a recent meeting, told the Chief Minister that “We have not eliminated the bandits yet. We are waiting for receding water level in the River Indus.”

The bandits have not only most sophisticated weapons but a very strong internet gadgets which cannot be disabled by the law enforcing agencies

So, the facts testify that the law enforcing agencies have not yet launched any anti-dacoit operation in the riverine forests despite approval and clear orders of previous and present governments even after lapse of over six months.

The Chief Minister’s media team never mentioned the progress of so-called ‘anti-dacoit operation’ in the riverine area’, as was decided, to eliminate the criminals who have kidnapped dozens of men and children and made them hostage for ransom and are releasing the videos of hostages on social media.

Surprisingly, except a couple of recovery cases of hostages, no remarkable success has been achieved by a strong force of 4500 men equipped with armored vehicles and sophisticated weapons ‘provided to police force’, as claimed by Sindh government.

It’s also surprising that the gangs of outlaws are enjoying all the facilities and continue receiving supplies of food and weapons, which shows that the police force have neither blocked their  supply lines nor the communication system.

Kidnappings for ransom continue

Three brothers kidnapped from Badani
Three brothers kidnapped recently from Badani

During the period under report, the outlaws however continued kidnapping the innocent citizens. According to media reports, about three dozen people, including the men and children are still hostage to these dacoits. Certain reports suggest that a large number of people hailing from Hindu community were also made captive by the bandits. A recent report circulating on social media also revealed that three young brothers, Amjad Ali, student of 12th grade, Sajad Ali, student of tenth grade and Ashfaque Ahmed, a primary student, sons of Bagan Bhayo, a teacher, were kidnapped near Badani town, when they were returning home after closing their shop. And on Sunday January 7, 2024, the social media reported that taking the benefit of smog, the highwaymen ambushed the slow-moving vehicles near Kashmore, opened indiscriminate fires killing six people, and kidnapped another four persons.

Pirya Kumari abducted three years ago and still not recovered
Pirya Kumari abducted three years ago and still not recovered

Who are the bandits and their facilitators?

Back in 2005, during an informal chat at the office of then Home Minister of Sindh Rauf Siddiqui, the then Director General of Sindh Rangers, had said, “The feudal lords used to harbor the outlaws and all those feudal lords are part of the government and sitting in the provincial and national assembly.”

“We can eliminate all the gangs of bandits once we are allowed to take action,” he had remarked.

Same views were expressed recently by a senior police officer, who had spent several years in upper Sindh districts, and was well aware of the situation. On the condition of anonymity, he said, “The bandits of the Katcha (Riverine areas) use to operate under the patronage of feudal lords, the bandits of Pacca (Urban areas).”

Read also: More Than 30 Hindus Held Hostage by Bandits In Sindh

According to him, the outlaws operating from the thick forests of River Indus mainly belong to three tribes, and they enjoy full support of tribal chiefs. The bandits have hideouts in the forests with strong network of intelligence among the villagers dwelling in scores of villages located in Katcha area.

“The gangs of bandits are 14 but they cannot be eliminated even by a strong force of 5000, because the bandits live like the villagers and cannot be identified. Opening fires on villagers would kill women and children also, and that’s a big hindrance. Moreover, the police personnel deployed there belong to other areas of Sindh and have never been to forests, where the bandits have dug trenches and ditches to trap even the armored vehicles,” he said.

“The bandits have not only most sophisticated weapons but a very strong internet gadgets which cannot be disabled by the law enforcing agencies,” the police officer told.

To my query, he said, “Weapons are supplied to the outlaws by the Afghan and Pashtun timber traders who are involved in illegal activity of chopping down the forest trees and supply of weapons.”

“They are so influential that action has never been taken against them,” he concluded.

Hostages are chained by outlaws - screen shot from a video released by the bandits a couple of years back
Hostages are chained by outlaws – screen shot from a video released by the bandits a couple of years back

Sindh continues grappling with banditry  

Sindh continues grappling with increase in dacoit activities and kidnappings for ransom. These criminal activities have caused fear and insecurity among the local population. The organized banditry, has a long history in Sindh, dating back to the British colonial era. Poverty, lack of development, and weak governance have contributed to the rise of gangs of bandits that operate with impunity. Over time, these gangs have become more sophisticated, employing modern weaponry and tactics.

Weapons are supplied to the outlaws by the Afghan and Pashtun timber traders who are involved in illegal activity of chopping down the forest trees and supply of weapons.

Kidnappings for ransom have become a lucrative business for criminal syndicates in Sindh. Wealthy individuals, businessmen, and their families are often targeted due to their perceived ability to pay large sums of money. Victims are held captive until their families pay the demanded ransom, often resulting in prolonged periods of fear and trauma.

The rise in dacoit activities and kidnappings has had a detrimental impact on the local economy, discouraging investment and hindering development efforts. The prevalence of dacoit gangs has strained social cohesion, as communities become divided and distrustful of one another.

Long-term Solutions

Addressing the root causes of banditry requires comprehensive poverty alleviation programs that provide employment opportunities, education, and basic services in rural areas. Investing in the training, equipment, and capacity-building of law enforcement agencies is crucial to effectively combat criminal activities. Improving governance, transparency, and accountability at all levels of government will help create an environment where criminal activities find no space to thrive.


Nasir Aijaz is a senior journalist based in Karachi. He is author of a dozen books on history, language, literature, travelogue, and some 500 articles on different subjects. He can be accessed at nasir.akhund1954@gmail.com   





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