By Maj (R) Munir Ahmed (2nd SSC)
During last week of October 1988, my unit (18 FF Regt) stationed at Jhelum Cantt was asked to move to interior Sindh on a very short notice, as dacoity incidents there were on its peak. Numerous groups of dacoits were operating in interior Sindh badly disturbing the routine activities of life and business. The traffic on National Highway between Nawabshah and Hyderabad was impossible, specially at night. Law enforcing agencies would block the would shape the civil traffic into a convoys and move them under their escort to cross this dangerous portion.
My unit moved to interior Sindh where our companies were deployed at Sakrand, Qazi Ahmed, Nawabshah and Moro. My company was stationed at Sakrand. I had several meetings with Police and District Administration. Basing on the information provided to me, I carried out extensive reconnaissance to familiarize myself with the area of my operation.
I was still in the process of settling down, when on 5th of November, 1988 at about 2230 hours, I was informed by Police Station Sakrand that a dacoity had taken place at village Jamal Kerio about 8 KMs from my location. Within 20 minutes, I along with my Quick Response Force, comprising one JCO and 20 OR was there at the village Jamal Kerio Assistant Commissioner and SHO were already present there with their force of about 10 people. I was told that a group of dacoits managed their entry on gun point at the house of Anwar Kerio, a big landlord and member District Council Nawabshah at sunset and after looting their valuables had taken him and his brother Umer Kerio for ransom. The dacoits asked their family for ransom of three million rupees for their release. The police party under the supervision of Assistant Commissioner Sakrand were having tea. I was told that they will carry out the operation at first light, as during dark hours, it was not possible for them to follow the foot prints of the dacoits and abductees.
The incident of dacoity took place immediately after sunset but I was informed at 2230 hours by the police intentionally because they were afraid of these dacoits. The police wanted the dacoits to enter in thick forest area along river Indus where they had their hide outs and it was quite difficult for any force to locate them as the forest along both banks of Indus is spread over miles with thick wild growth with only 5 meters visibility even during day light.
My further investigation revealed that one of the abductees, Umer Kerio, was asthma patient and it was not possible for him to keep pace with the fast-moving dacoits. Without wasting any time, I consulted the map and found that to enter into forest area, which was about 7 KM cross-country walk from the place of incident, the dacoits had to cross Rohri Canal (a big canal with 20 feet deep water) which had four bridges in that area. The Canal was about 5 KM from the place of occurrence. I blocked four crossing places by dropping three men on each bridge to deny the crossing of canal by the dacoits. I also instructed my men to fire in the air after short intervals to alarm the dacoits that the bridges were being manned and they should not try to cross it. My plan was to deny the crossing of canal by daciots and to take them to the task during day light.
Whole night I kept patrolling along the canal to watch any movement. The dacoits did try to cross the bridge from two places but after finding that the bridges were manned by my armed troops, they gave up the idea and hid themselves in a field of sugarcane (It was revealed to me after the operation was over). Next morning at first light, I along with 12 OR went to the place of incident and asked the police party to start following the footprints of dacoits, led by a professional Khouji (tracker) specially arranged by police for this purpose. Following foot prints was quite a tedious and time-consuming exercise.
At about 1430 hours, the tracking party stopped near a sugarcane field and informed me that there were no foot prints after the edge of this field. They also suggested me to wind up the operation as they were very tired and going beyond that point meant futile effort. They were of the view that the dacoits had crossed the Canal before establishing blocking positions and must have reached their sanctuary. Their suggestion made me double minded but after a deliberate thought I decided to make a desperate effort to search the sugarcane field. This field was 800 meters long and 600 meters wide with thick growth of full ripe sugar canes providing visibility only up to 5 meters.
I decided to enter the field from one side in an extended line keeping my two parties consisting of 2 men with one LMG each on both sides of the field to take on the dacoits if they tried to get out of the field. I kept my own force on my right keeping myself in the center, with police force on my left and started scanning the field. We had hardly gone about 100 meters in the field when we came under indiscriminate firing of automatic weapons. We fired back at them, on which they made an attempt to run from the other side of the field where my 2 men with LMG were alert to welcome them. During this scuffle, one of the abductees, Anwar Kerio, made his escape good and reached my LMG position.
The dacoits went back into the field and gave us tough resistance. I decided to extricate from the field to avoid any unnecessary casualty. I shouted for my troops to come out of the field by adopting ‘Fire and Move’ method. We all came out of the field safely. I immediately cordoned off the field by positioning myself with one of my LMG group. The abductee who had managed his escape good during exchange of fire, gave me quite useful information. The group of dacoits consisted of 6 dacoits. He roughly pointed out the likely position of dacoits in the field. A few hand grenades were thrown there to force them to come out of the field but it did not work. Another attempt was made to put the sugar cane field on fire but the fire could not spread due to wet ground.
My all endeavors were to force the dacoits to come out of the field during day time as darkness at night could give them the advantage. Meanwhile exchange of fire continued with some intervals. Visualizing pitch dark night ahead made me worried. I was left with only two hours of day light. I placed military and police vehicles to cover maximum area with the instructions to the drivers to start their vehicles with their head lights on at last light. The area, I could not cover, was lit by locally arranged generators which foreseeing the situation were hired from the nearby village with bulbs and poles and fuel tanks full to their capacity.
After making all these arrangements, I felt quite relieved as I was now fully prepared to take the dacoits on even during dark hours. At last light, all the vehicles as per ordered, put their vehicle engines to start with their head lights on. The area which could not be covered by the vehicles lights was lit by the generators. This arrangement must have worried the dacoits. Now it was battle of wits and nerves. I was anticipating that they would try to break the cordon by mid night but they were very clever and made an attempt at 0430 hours in the morning when they thought my troops must be tired and exhausted. They tried to break the cordon by bringing indiscriminate firing on my 3 ton vehicle which had a LMG fixed on it. The sentry on the LMG, got a bullet in his helmet which luckily ricochet. He ducked down and the dacoits bypassed the vehicle. I followed them along with my runner and one LMG group which I had kept with me for this very eventuality. They were still in the light of our second layer when they were hit by the bullets of my Sten gun and LMG of my men. All 6 dacoits were killed on the spot. I came to know that their leader was GHULAM CHANDIO, a notorious dacoit who was a symbol of terror in Sindh. We carried out his search and found a clipping of newspaper in his pocket, indicating his head-money amounting to Rupees One Million. During all this process, the dacoits had killed the other abductee, Umer Kerio, by shooting him at his head with a big cloth in his mouth so that his cry could not be heard by us.
The news of Ghulam Chandio’s death spread like jungle fire and people started coming from every nook and corner to see his dead body. Commissioner Sukkur Division came and embraced me with heartfelt congratulations. Ghulam Chandio was involved in number of murder, dacoity and abduction cases. It was the first and last time in my life when I gave so many autographs to many people not known to me. The Corps Commander along with GOC also visited the site the same morning and after my briefing to them, my citation for Sitara-i- Basalat was initiated. I was decorated with this honour on 26th of March, 1990. The most pleasant and cherished moment of my life was, when I was honoured with a standing ovation in GHQ Auditorium by Senior Army Officers and their families after my citation was read by Lt Gen Farrakh (then MS).
PAKISTAN ZINDABAD !! PAK ARMY, PAINDABAD!!
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)
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