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Saturday Feb 15 2020

Geo Special Report: For crime bosses, Shikarpur is a goose that lays golden eggs

In Shikarpur, a war is brewing. 

The district, sometimes referred to as the goose that lays golden eggs, is balanced on a knife-edge as two feudal lords, both having strong ties to the provincial government, engage in a battle for control over the area. 

The violence that has drenched the streets of Shikarpur as a result of this dispute has raised serious questions about the tribal system prevalent over large areas of the province, and whether that outdated system is being actively used as a tool to promote lawlessness and chaos. 

According to sources, the two warring clans are fighting for control of the routes through which smuggled petrol from Iran is brought to Pakistan, the distribution of narcotics, oversight over an inter-provincial supply line of oil, and a stake in resources worth billions of rupees in the Kaccha area.

The allegation against certain feudal lords of the district is that they are fanning the flames of tribal and communal conflict in order to gain a monopoly over the financial resources of Shikarpur. 

Poor people are being killed in this battle, but the government appears unaware of the gravity of the situation, reports Geo News.

On the faultline

Shikarpur, according to a local journalist, was an historically beautiful city. 

"It was even compared to Paris once upon a time, and the roads of the city were washed regularly," journalist Jan Mohammad Mehar told Geo News. 

Geo News screengrab

Today, a thriving trade in narcotics and smuggled petrol and an oil supply line in the district have elevated its importance for those eyeing a share of its many bounties.

"Any mention of the city today invokes feelings of anxiety and restlessness among locals," says Mehar. 

"[The people] associate Shikarpur with tribal disputes, crime, and chaos. It is where the dacoits rule." 

The key characters

The tribe of the Sindh Minister for Mines and Mineral Development, Shabbir Bijarani, is presently involved in a dispute with the Teghani clan of the area. 

The chief of the Teghani clan, Sardar Teghu Khan Teghani, is considered a close aide of the Sindh Minister for Energy, Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh. 

Geo News screengrab

Three other powerful lawmkers, including Speaker of Sindh Assembly Agha Siraj Durrani, Member of National Assembly Mir Abid Hussein, and Member of National Assembly Ibrahim Jatoi also hail from the Shikarpur district. 

Shaikh is at the center of the tribal dispute in Shikarpur. 

Sources say that Maqbool Shaikh, the brother of the minister, is actively sheltering criminals to expand his power in the area. 

Locals accuse the Shaikhs of using criminals to increase their influence, since the brothers do not belong to a tribe that can claim its origins in Shikarpur. 

'My son was gunned down in front of my eyes'

Shahnawaz Brohi, a political rival of the Shaikhs, accuses the brothers of being involved in the killing of his son.

Geo News screengrab

He claims that individuals associated with the duo also injured another of his sons. 

"My son was gunned down in front of my eyes, but his [Shaikh's] name was removed from the FIR after pressure from the [Sindh] government. It was included in the FIR again after a court intervened," Brohi told Geo News.

"Imtiaz Shaikh and Maqbool Shaikh get people killed in the area. Teghani is associated with Imtiaz Shaikh and is involved in robberies and kidnappings. Teghani kidnaps people and Shaikh returns them.

"Teghani is Shaikh's right-hand man," he alleged. 

'Supporting Shaikh not a crime'

In response to the allegations, the chief of the Teghani tribe, Teghu Khan, has said that supporting Imtiaz Shaikh is not a crime. 

"Imtiaz Shaikh has our votes. But if I vote for him, it does not imply that I am in league with him. Imtiaz Shaikh is a former bureaucrat and is an exemplary person," he said.

"Which criminal has Imtiaz Shaikh supported? If he has supported any criminal, evidence should be provided to lend credence to the allegation," he added.

"If I have supported any criminal, evidence should be provided to back the claims. A person cannot be declared guilty based on allegations only," he said.

An infamous graveyard

A graveyard in Shikarpur, known as Chungi Muqam, has for years been a base for drug operations. 

Entering the graveyard, one can witness drugs being consumed and sold in the open. Armed men are also present on the premises, and there is a lot of suspicious activity in the graveyard.

There is a graveyard here that is a huge base for drug operations in the area. The gunmen of these guys [the Shaikhs] roam the graveyard freely and trade in illegal drugs," Brohi tells Geo News

Even as the Geo News team is in the area, the locals take out a procession against Shaikh. 

A secret police report

Violent incidents are a norm in Shikarpur as the locals are held hostage to criminals gangs. The local police is under so much pressure that policemen from Karachi have been deployed in 'sensitive' areas. 

Police report against Sindh minister Imtiaz Shaikh.

According to police sources, an arrest was carried out in connection with the kidnapping of local artist Jigar Jalal and the martyrdom of DSP Rao Shafiq. 

The suspect, Abdul Wahid Teghani, was arrested from Karachi and handed over to Shikarpur police. However, the local police were forced to release the suspect after a month under pressure from a provincial minister.

SSP Shikarpur Dr Rizwan, in a secret report, held Imtiaz Shaikh responsible for the violence in the area.

An influential tribal chief, Dr Ibrahim Jatoi, told Geo News that the police must have had their reasons for what they wrote in the report. 

"The police department is a big department. The police can better explain what they wrote. The other accused party in the case is also part of the government, or so we have heard, and should come forward and clear the matter," he said.

But in addition to political rivals, politicians from the area have also said that Shaikh has to respond to the charges leveled against him.