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Sunday Feb 16 2020

Geo Special Report: Understanding the infamous Kacha area of Sindh

The dispute between the Jatoi and the Mehar clans was one of the bloodiest in the history of Sindh. 

The rivalry started over a piece of land measuring a mere one acre, but more than 300 people were killed in the ensuing hostilities. 

In 2007, the 15-year-old dispute ended after a truce was signed between tribal chiefs Ibrahim Jatoi and Ghaus Baksh Maher. 

That truce remains intact to this day. 

However, the benefits of the truce for inhabitants of the area are still unclear.

Geo News screngrab

No-go area

The land that the two tribes control is infamous for being a haven for notorious criminals, including high-profile kidnappers. 

The area stretches over hundreds of thousands of acres from Kashmore to Dadu on one bank of the River Sindh, and Ghotki to Moro on the other bank. It is believed that criminals involved in tribal disputes in Sindh escape to this region when fleeing justice.

When the river floods, the area becomes uninhabitable. But when the waters recede, it is dry, highly fertile land. 

In local parlance, it is known as Kacha area. 

At the edge of the last police outpost in Shikarpur, Garhi Teghu, is one of its most dangerous spots.

Over the years, a deputy superintendent of police, two station house officers, a Rangers DSR and several soldiers have been martyred in this area.

“Any area beyond Toriband in Shikarpur is considered a no go area,” says Mohammad Bachal, a local journalist. 

“We tried to enter a village belonging to the Chachar clan. Facilities such as a school, madrassah and electricity are available here. However, the people of the area refused to speak to us and told us to leave immediately," he narrated.

Police checkpost in the area. Geo News screengrab

The police in Moshko, on the side of the Kacha area that borders Punjab, have established bunkers equipped with heavy machine guns to stop the movement of miscreants. An armoured personnel carrier patrols the area. 

Ali Hassan, a journalist from Hyderabad, notes that the land in the Kacha area is very fertile. 

“Adding to that, there is free water, free fish, and free supply of precious wood from the river forests. On top of that, you have cheap labour in the form of thousands of criminals on the run from the law who take refuge in this area. 

"All these have made the region a very sought-after piece of land. Every sardar wants a big slice of this pie," he told Geo News

Jatoi dismisses 'old rumors' 

When questions were put to Ibrahim Jatoi about the presence of miscreants in his area, he dismissed the notion, describing it as an "old matter" and insisted that "there is no issue anymore". 

“The wheat crop was just sown — you should go there and see. It'll fill your heart with joy. There are no amenities or electricity in the area. People say we will not let polio campaigns run till you make schools and hospitals for us. All of this [talk of miscreants operating in the area] is just rumours.”

Another local landlord, Sardar Tegho Khan Teghani, however, disputed Jatoi.

Geo News screengrab

He said some notorious elements had taken over government land and established their camps on it. 

"There is a parallel state that stretches from Kashmore to Dadu," he said, where dacoits control agriculture and society. 

"Unless there is an operation, this will continue. Till the lands are not taken back from them, there will be no peace in the area. There should be an army operation — a police operation has been ongoing in the area for the last 18 years," he remarked. 

"They blame the sardars for the law and order situation. No sardar has stopped them [the authorities] from conducting an operation. In fact, we want the military to launch an operation so that our name can be cleared,” he added.

Advocate Shahnawaz Brohi, who is familiar with the area and the tribes which populate it, told Geo News that the writ of the government does not exist in the border town. 

“No decent man can enter there, but criminal elements make millions,” he said.