- 13 gangsters led by dreaded dacoit Ghulam Rasool alias Chhotu ‘surrender unconditionally’ to security forces along with families; abducted policemen rescued
- ISPR DG says army will move against all ‘no-go’ areas across the country, will not leave Kacha area until complete elimination of criminals
Leader of the notorious Chhotu Gang, Ghulam Rasool, along with 13 gang members has “surrendered unconditionally to the army”, the military spokesperson announced on Wednesday.
Addressing a press briefing regarding the ongoing operation in Rajanpur area, Lt Gen Asim Bajwa said “the military has successfully completed operation Zarb-i-Ahan”.
He also confirmed that the 24 policemen taken hostage by the Chhotu gang have been rescued.
“The army will not vacate this area until all the miscreant elements are neutralised,” Bajwa maintained.
The military media wing chief said that security forces will eliminate this ‘no-go area’ and any other such areas across the country.
He said that authorities have started formal interrogation of Chhotu while the released policemen along with the kin of the gangsters have been shifted from the island. Some 24 women and 44 children were among those transported from the island hideout of the notorious gang.
He said Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has felicitated and appreciated the role of operation commander of Pakistan Army, who along with the contingent of Rangers carried out the successful operation against the bandit gang.
He said that the COAS had instructed the operation commander that there should be no loss of life during the operation and the operational force made every effort to comply with the instructions.
Earlier it was reported that members of the Chhotu gang surrendered to the Pakistan Army and at least 170 gangsters were taken into custody by the armed forces.
Police launched the Rajanpur offensive after a go-ahead from the Punjab government. After seven police officials were killed and 24 others taken hostage, the Pakistan Army announced on April 16 that it would be taking over the operation.
The Chhotu Gang was given a deadline by the Pakistan Army to surrender on Monday, failing which the army said it would begin a full-scale operation in the area.
A source in the police department said that Chhotu had demanded safe passage for himself, his family and some loyal accomplices to proceed to Dubai in return of safe release of the captive policemen.
The rise of Chotoo and his gang:
Ghulam Rasool alias Chhotu worked as a security guard for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Atif Mazari for three to five years in Rojhan, according to police officials.
He also worked for the Punjab Police as an informer till 2007 and used to inform police about gangs involved in robberies and kidnapping for ransom in Rajanpur and Muzaffargarh districts.
According to locals and police, Chhotu belongs to Bakrani clan of Mazari tribe of Rojhan area. He later developed differences with police over unknown reasons and established his own gang to carry out criminal activities.
Some small and prominent gangs operating in Rojhan, Dera Ghazi Khan and adjoining districts of Sindh and Balochistan also joined the Chhotu gang. They include Bilal alias Bilali Jaakha, Baba Long, Gumani Gopang, Sindhi group, Bosans of Muzaffargrah and Khalid Kajlani.
The riverine area of Kachi Jamal in Rajanpur, a stronghold of the Chhotu gang, has a population of more than 10,000 people living in small villages. They depend mostly on rearing animals and farming. Chhotu is known for helping the locals and never carried out any criminal activity in the area. But he made it a no-go area for police who found it almost impossible to get information about him from the locals.
The biggest operation carried out by Rajanpur and Rahimyar Khan police against the Chhotu Gang was in 2010 which continued for three months, but to no avail. The last operation was conducted in 2013.