Gangs In Punjab

As a result of accelerating crime in the southern regions of Punjab, the Prime Minister has approved fresh law enforcement operations to counter the growing influence of violent gangs in the region, to be conducted in four phases by 300 law enforcers. Under the plan, the operation would be conducted in four phases: approach, clearance, consolidation and normalisation, while reportedly the police already kicked off the first phase late on Monday.
This is indeed a formidable task that the Punjab government and the Punjab law enforcement agencies would require help and assistance in. The last such operation that the Punjab law enforcement undertook was in 2016, which resulted in the lives of several policemen and the army had to arrive on the scene and conduct shelling of the bandits’ hideouts. This time too, The Punjab Rangers and the army have been put on high alert to assist in the operation as and when required.
There are several lessons to be learned from the 2016 operations, which received a lot of publicity and alarm due to the rampant and violent crime of the culprit gang, called the “Chotu gang”. The criminal incidents received worldwide attention due to the gang’s kidnappings of Chinese workers residing in Pakistan for CPEC projects. The government, before imparting on an operation, must keep in consideration the tendency of such gangs to kidnap or target foreign workers. It should also be noted that in 2016, the area was reported to have served as a sanctuary for sectarian militants and insurgents, with whom the bandits were believed to share economic interests. The government must keep the vulnerable targets in mind to provide extra protection, as a law operation is bound to result in a reaction from these gangs.
Perhaps most important, the government must also reflect on why six years after such an extensive operation, gang violence and gang culture have not been eradicated or severely mitigated and such a crisis has emerged again. These operations are needed, but their progress is undone if we don’t replace these gangs with development, better policing and community engagement. There is a vacuum that exists in South Punjab, which is filled by these large and dangerous gangs and this is what the government must look to address.

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