LAHORE – Four hardened criminals involved in multiple cases of killings, kidnappings, and armed robberies escaped from police van on Wednesday while they were being transported to a jail in Sheikhupura, police said.

However, police sources claimed that three of the under-trial prisoners were recaptured later while one hardened criminal is still at large.

The police produced four under-trial prisoners, identified as Imran, Liaqat, Muhammad Waqas, and Muhammad Ameen before a local court on early Wednesday. The accused were being transported to the jail in Sheikhupura when they overpowered the policemen.

One of the cops forced the driver to stop the van near Shahdara Town. As, the policeman opened the backdoor, the prisoners fled away.

The policemen made hue and cry and called the local residents for help. The passersby and shopkeepers helped the police arrest three of them. However, Muhammad Rafique, a hardened criminal involved in no less than 17 cases of crimes, managed to escape from the scene. They also badly tortured the police. The police have also registered the case and are investigating.

A number of victims of this inter-district gang of criminals staged a strong protest demonstration against the police and alleged that the prisoners had escaped in connivance with the policemen.

“My children will not go to school by tomorrow. They are desperate and hardened criminals. They were pressing us to withdraw a criminal case registered against them, in Factory Area police station,” Ghulam Abbas, a complainant and one of the victims said.

He approached The Nation offices on Wednesday evening and also appealed to the Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif to intervene into the situation to save innocent lives. He feared that the desperate gangsters would carry out gun attacks against their opponents to force them for withdrawal of cases registered against them. He also appealed to the Inspector General of Police Punjab Haji Habib-ur-Rehman to issue strict instructions to the police for the early arrest of the gangster, who has become a sign of terror in the entire locality. The resident of Nain Sukh, Shahdara, also demanded police protection for his family.

The criminals had abducted the brother of Ghulam Abbas for Rs 2.5 million as ransom. According to the victim, the gangsters had killed his brother as they failed to pay them such huge amount as ransom. A case had been registered with Factory Area police in this regard.