LAHORE - From the common man to influential politicians and from the businessmen to senior police officers, everyone heaved a sigh of relief on Tuesday, when the news broke out that two of the most notorious gangsters had been gunned down by the Sheikhupura police during an encounter on Monday night.

A similar episode was executed by their Muzaffargarh brethren when they shot dead a notorious proclaimed offender in the Dera Ghazi Khan region on last Sunday. These criminals had hurled life threats to several DPOs, MNA Irfan, former MNA Rabbani Khar, father of foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Sheikhupura RPO, Sargodha and Muzaffargarh DPOs, and had killed their relatives and managers.

“Gangsters are being cornered and some are on the run. I have directed my team to hunt down the gangsters and a major crackdown is underway across the province with the largest population,” IG Haji Habibur Rehman told TheNation on Tuesday. He termed such gangsters as local terrorists, who have terrorised the entire society.

Haji Habib told this scribe that MNA Irfan had visited him on Monday and told him that he had received a phone call from Kashi, who had threatened him and told him that he knew that he (MNA Irfan) was with the IG at right now.

To a query, the IG Punjab said he would extend his full support for the police officers, who will fight against criminals on forefronts. “The department will also cooperate with such police officers in each case of criminal litigation and induct two sons of the martyred cops besides providing them handsome amount as reward,” he stated.

A police team headed by DPO Sheikhupura Dr. Haider Ashraf shot dead two mafia cheifs including the most-wanted gangster Kashif alias Kashi, carrying head-money worth over Rs5 million, and his right-hand man Shehzad alias Shehzado, carrying head-money worth Rs 3 million, while a third accomplice, namely Peero was also arrested.

Regional Police Officer Sheikhupura DIG Zulfiqar Cheema, an encounter specialist, told TheNation that Kashi had become a symbol of terror for MNAs, MPAs, DPOs and other senior police officers. “He was involved in more than 100 cases of kidnapping for ransom and rape, murder, dacoities, cars snatching, drug peddling, and extortion,” he stated. Mr. Cheema believed that Kashi had killed over 70 persons across the Punjab.

Briefing about the details of the encounter, DPO Sheikhupura Dr. Haider said, “Police signalled them to stop at a police picket at Khankah Dogra but they opened firing at the police, triggering the encounter.” Similarly, DPO Muzaffargarh Munir Ahmed Zia, flanked by a good number of police contingents cordoned off Hotwani area in Kalan Police Station early on Sunday, and gunned down a notorious gangster Muhammad Arshad, carrying head money worth over Rs500, 000. Arshad and his accomplice Azeza Jarwar had killed two police officers in Sanawan area.

Four criminals wanted in several crimes including rape, gang rape, murders, armed robberies, kidnapping for ransom, motorcycles theft and cars snatching were hidden there.

DPO said that as the officials raided the hideout, the criminals, who were equipped with automatic sophisticated firearms, opened indiscriminate fire on them, and they retaliated in the same manner. Punjab Police spokeswoman Ms Nabeela said that DPO Munir showed exemplary valour and gallantry on the occasion and ordered the cops to round them up at any cost. She further said that criminals also tried to take the police officers hostage and kept firing, and a criminal namely Arshad was gunned down by his own accomplices.

She said that another accused Ali Hassan also sustained multiple bullet injuries whereas three others including Sajjad Hussain, Wahid Bukhash and Imran were arrested. Muzaffargarh police also recovered six hand grenades, one semi-automatic rifle, two rocket launchers, three rockets and eight loaded magazines from their possession.

Rao Munir said that their other gang members including Javed Lashari, Mujahid, Jamsheed, Azeema, Azeza Jarwar, Sajjad Jarwar, Nazar Talib, Farooq Qurban are being chased by the police.