By Meer Hazar Mazari
The “Kacheh” is a plain and vast area agriculturally rich, located on the islands of a river. Typically, it is understood as a jungle or forest area. However, the major portion of the Kacheh region consists of fertile lands, which are tillable and produce valuable cash crops such as wheat, sugarcane, and cotton.
The specific Kacheh being referred to in this paper is the region of the Indus River, which is situated along the tri-border of Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan provinces. The economic structure here relies on agriculture, and most of the land is owned by influential tribal landlords (Sardar and Wadero) who were granted these lands during the British colonial era as a reward for their loyalty. It was first time in the region the land was granted to such a person privately and permanently.
Later, in early 1950’s and during the governments of General Ayub Khan and Mr. Bhutto, land reforms were formulated to redistribute large estates from major landlords to small farmers and peasants. However, due to the government’s ineffective implementation, these reforms did not significantly benefit the local peasantry. Today, landed gentry and feudal politicians still hold government-owned land illegally, and the survival of the peasantry is dependent on cultivating their lands.
Moreover, inheritably, the social structure of Kacheh is intertwined in tribal relations. People bounded in the tribal system are socially forced to follow so-called tribal traditions. The minor tribal and social disputes escalate into major tribal conflicts which continued even decades. Socially, it becomes the responsibility of their tribal-political lords to bring them to understanding. Instead of encouraging understanding and peace, the feudal-politicians often fuel these conflicts towards warfare for their political interest. The political support and patronage of these feudal politicians escalate these clashes even further.
These conflicts further trigger the security forces to take action. Lack of justice and biasness, local police force cabals with privileged class and incites hatred in the underprivileged. Politically, deprived class is reluctant to handover themselves to local police. Resultantly, they become wanted of Kacheh. This is how a gang produces in the region. They prefer one day of freedom over hundred days of imprisonment. Gradually, they become powerful non-state actor and start looting around the region. They get involved in serious crimes like target killing, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. So-called police operations further boost up their moral.
Sometimes these gangsters threaten local landlords and businessmen including their former tribal lords. For sake of justice former PTI MNA Sardar Riaz Mehmood Mazari from Rajanpur and PPP MPA Mumtaz Chang from Rahim Yar Khan raised this serious issue in their respective assemblies during the last tenure.
They repeatedly said that local police force had become an instrument of the gangsters. Pakistani state security apparatus and government did not pay much attention. The prevailing lawlessness, looting, and instability have rendered the fate of the people in these areas destitute. Recently, four laborers were killed by gangster in Kacheh Machka of Rahim Yar Khan. Before this, nine persons of one family were killed in Mahi Chowk tragedy in October 2021.
The gang, even, now, uses social media unconventionally. They post the videos of abductees on social media for ransom. Honey trapping is a common tactic for kidnapers. Even, they also upload the videos of police ineffective operations. The fear and insecurity foments among local people which force them to migrate to the cities after selling their land and business.
However, no police officer has ever been held accountable for their actions. Can anyone assess the budget of police operations involving billions of rupees to stop kidnappings, target killings, and extortion? Majority of our local tribal lords and politicians’ do not want peace the region due to their ulterior motives. They still believe in colonial philosophy and mindset- divide and rule. Agriculturally, rich Kacheh, has now become a safe haven for dacoits. State security apparatus, local politicians and our policy makers are the responsible for this.
Reforms in police force are of significant importance. The tribal lords and politicians should be accountable. An effective operation is the need of hour. Gangsters can be dealt in two ways, either through negotiations or elimination. Establishing schools and colleges in Kacheh will help to eliminate tribal mentalities. The government-owned lands should be distributed among local peasantry to prevent feudal-politician hegemony over local people. Otherwise, the Kacheh would continue to burn and citizens would pay the cost. Resultantly, it would be an endless dilemma.
(The Writer is MPhil scholar from Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)