February issue 2009

By | News & Politics | Published 15 years ago

“I live on main Khayaban-e-Bahria, and my mother lives on the other side of the street. Some nights ago, I had just made a U-turn and was parked outside my mother’s place, when a white Corolla pulled up and the man in the car pointed a gun at me. At first, I pretended that I hadn’t seen him but when he started tapping on my window with a gun. I reacted on impulse and sped away before he could react — all the while blowing the horn. They chased after me, but when they saw that I was attracting a lot of attention, they drove away.”

“My husband, our daughters and I were all in the car, returning from a dholki, and were on Khayaban-e-Shaheen, just about to turn into our street, when we noticed a white Corolla speeding behind us, as if it was going to hit us. My husband slowed down to let him pass. Suddenly, my daughter screamed that the man in the car, now next to us, had a gun in his hands. Without thinking, I told my husband to just drive! The car kept following us but since we were familiar with the area, my husband pulled up in front of a house where he knew there were guards outside, so the car drove away.”

“My wife and I had just turned onto Khayaban-e-Rahat from Khayaban-e-Hafiz, when we realised there was a car speeding up from behind, flashing its lights at us. I slowed down in order to let him pass, but instead of driving away, the white Corolla pulled up next to us and a man with long hair and a handkerchief masking his face pointed a gun at us. Another man, who also had his face covered, got off the car and he too, had a gun, and constantly hurled abuses at us. They took our wallets, purse, jewellery, watches and mobiles but still they kept persisting — asking for more valuables. I was petrified as my wife was with me and I was afraid for her, and told them that we had given them whatever they had, and finally, he said we could go.”

These are just three of the many stories that had been doing the rounds in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), where the suspects in a white Toyota Corolla had been wreaking havoc, terrorising the residents of the area for nearly a year. Their victims were both women driving on their own, as well as those accompanied by men. Typically, their modus operandi was to speed up from behind and either hit the car they were targeting, or force it to pull over. Wearing wigs and with their faces covered, the assailants committed crimes which also included rape and murder.

But, by being silent spectators to these atrocious crimes, Karachi’s rich and powerful that reside in DHA may just be instrumental in allowing the criminals to walk free again. By not providing the police with personal accounts, the police will have no evidence to hold these criminals in custody. In fact, there must hardly be a resident of Defence who hasn’t been a victim or known someone who has suffered at the hands of these seasoned criminals.

After speaking with some key people involved in the arrest of the two criminals, it became obvious that the duo suffered from no qualms about ever getting caught. To elucidate, it may be worth tracing the events that took place on that fateful January night, and the subsequent developments till our going into print.

According to SP Investigations Shahid Hayat, the police had been on the look out for a ‘gang’ operating in a white Toyota Corolla for nearly a month. The CPLC had been assisting the investigation by functioning as bait. Plain-clothed policemen, accompanied by female constables in private cars, had been doing the rounds of DHA for a month. In fact, on two separate occasions, the police had nearly nabbed them during their spot-checks, but the suspects had managed to get away after the police opened fire on them.

On this particular night, the two suspects, Mohammed Ali Hajiano and Umair Khan, had already held up four cars at gunpoint — although only two incidents were reported to ‘15’ and no FIRS were registered. TPO Clifton Ashfaq, who had been posted in the area on January 9, had been assigned the task of nabbing the alleged criminals, when he received a call from the DIG that a white Corolla had held up an aunt of a colleague of theirs. Then began a hot pursuit, with the Defence mobile, DSP and the SIU’s car ­— all chasing the criminals. They opened fire, which resulted in the white Corolla losing control and colliding into the wall of a house. Allegedly, the two men were drunk but were still able to hold up another car using some kids as hostages, and fired eight shots at the car in anger when they didn’t seem to be getting enough valuables from them.

This time round, though, the police had changed its strategy, and instead of just concentrating on chasing the Corolla, they blocked off all entry and exit points, so that the culprits could not make a clean getaway. Finally, they surrendered. Found in their possession, aside from the loot, were highly sophisticated weapons, the original number plate of the car they were using — reportedly it was a rental car for which they were paying Rs 28,000 per month — and ATM cards. Later, the investigation teams raided the house of Mohammed Ali Hajiano and recovered stolen cell phones, jewellery worth millions of rupees, Rolex watches, two 9mm pistols, purses and wallets, and a Mercedes with a shield of a High Court advocate at the back, which was being used each time they wanted to transport jewellery to a buyer.

During the interrogation, Hajiano had reportedly confessed to having raped seven of his victims in the car, after having robbed them of their possessions. He is reported to have said that he “got kicks out of physically assaulting” his female victims.

Apparently, there were nearly a hundred people who showed up at the police station after learning of the arrest of the ‘Chalaawa Group’ as they are called, to claim their stolen valuables. But when they were asked to identify the criminals in the court, none were willing to do so. So far, only three people have had the courage and felt it their moral duty to testify in court. One of them, a woman, was so overcome with rage when she was brought face-to-face with the accused, Hajiano, that she reportedly started beating him.

According to all three people interviewed for this story, there are only 30 registered cases of theft against the culprits — as opposed to 40 unregistered and probably a lot more that haven’t been reported at all — and no registered cases of rape. According to the police, if there are not enough witnesses against these criminals, they will once again be stalking the streets in a matter of a few months.

TPO Clifton assured this writer that, to date, there have been no cases of vengeance by street criminals, so people have nothing to fear in coming forward and testifying. If they are still nervous, the CPLC is willing to place them in a witness protection programme. Hajiano had been arrested five years ago when he had impersonated an army major in order to get some people released. His brother had also been arrested for robbery in the past, but he was freed due to a lack of witnesses. Already, Hajiano’s father, a former EDO education, is claiming that this is a case of political victimisation.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. She also works at Hum television.

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