Preparing anew to fight terrorism


WEB DESK: Although the Punjab government has been in a state of denial about the presence of violent extremist groups in the province, terrorists remain active. Nine lives were lost in two separate terror incidents on Wednesday. The first took place in Sheikhupura district not far from Lahore. According to the provincial Counter Terrorism Department, a dozen Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants riding motor-cycles were on their way to attack a police target when they were intercepted. Seven of them were killed in an exchange of fire and the others escaped from the scene taking advantage of the night’s darkness.

The police version of how these people were killed may not be very reliable. It might be a case of ‘staged encounter’, but the claim that they were to attack the police seems to be valid. The same day in Lahore, two policemen manning a picket were shot dead by three motor cyclists. In a similar incident last month a police sub-inspector was gunned down in the city’s cantonment area. The terrorists seem to be trying to demonstrate they still have the power to strike.

Notably, various terrorist groups, such as the LeJ and the erstwhile Punjabi Taliban rose from Punjab. The LeJ chief along with several companions was killed last July in a police shootout. Yet, eliminating such a well entrenched extremist group with links to the TTP and its declared allegiance to the so-called IS remains a huge challenge. Certain other proscribed sectarian groups also continue to spread mischief under new names.

Security agencies have been carrying out intelligence-based operations all over the country, including in Punjab. But the provincial government so far has been averse to any suggestions to call out Rangers, like in Sindh, to restore peace and security. Cause of the aversion could be apprehensions about the paramilitary force overstepping its mandated limits and/or a self-image issue. Whatever the reason, it is good to note that the government has finally changed its stance.

The Corps Commander Lahore, Lieutenant-General Sadiq Ali, called on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday to discuss effective implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism. A particularly important outcome of the meeting is an agreement to launch a surgical counter-terrorism operation jointly by the Punjab Police, the Rangers and security agencies.

The operation is to start with Rajanpur, Taunsa and adjoining areas in southern Punjab – a high militant concentration area. It would need to be expanded later considering that these extremists have sanctuaries and sleeper cells in central and northern Punjab as well. Hopefully, the provincial government will soon requisition the Rangers help to fight terrorists in whichever part of the province conditions so require.

Source: Business Recorder