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EDITORIAL: The problem of kidnapping for ransom in the dacoits-infested Katcha Areas (riverine region along River Indus) despite recovery of four hostages, remains unresolved despite repeated operations by law enforcement agencies.

For the fourth consecutive day on Monday, Hindu residents of upper Sindh staged protest demonstration at Dera Mor — where the borders of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan meet — over the abduction of some businessmen and children belonging to the community.

Relatively prosperous commodity traders, they are frequently targeted. Protests also erupted in Kashmore. Meanwhile, all shops and businesses in Kashmore and other towns, including Kandhkot, Badani, Karampur and Ghouspur stayed shut.

Gravity of the situation was underscored by Dr Mahar Chand, senior vice president of the PPP’s (Pakistan Peoples Party’s) minority wing in the province, as he told a reporter that around 40 persons were kidnapped during the last few months.

Some of them, he said, were freed by the dacoits — probably on the intervention of locally influential persons believed to patronise these criminal elements — and the others returned home after payment of ransom monies.

That the Katcha Areas’ notorious criminal gangs have become too troublesome is a fact. Last March, the Sindh government decided to launch, in collaboration with Punjab, an operation backed by the Rangers.

Since the dacoits used sophisticated military grade weapons, the police officers were provided with modern arms and armoured vehicles. A two-pronged operation was started by Sindh and Punjab from their respective areas. The police claimed to have cleared a large part of the areas and fully restored check-posts.

Several dacoits were killed and their hideouts demolished. Still, the trouble persists. Interim provincial Home Minister Haris Nawaz told journalists on Sunday that a plan had been finalised to launch yet another operation in the riverine areas of Jacobabad and Shikarpur, promising to make it result-oriented.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from the previous operations, it is that the criminals will lie low through the duration of police action and return to business as usual. It should be clear by now that such actions alone will not make the problem go away unless provincial governments take a holistic view of its causes and address them.

As those familiar with the prevailing situation has been pointing out the principle cause is pervasive poverty. The young people living in these areas have hardly any other option but to join these gangs to earn a livelihood.

That is well understood by all concerned. It may be recalled that a little over a year ago the then prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, had approved several development projects for the uplift of the region, and also called upon provincial governments to construct roads, hospitals and schools creating employment opportunities for the local people. So far, little is known to have materialised.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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