Mil­i­tary gives go-ahead for Pun­jab op­er­a­tion af­ter La­hore car­nage

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

The Army and Rangers will con­duct a wide­spread op­er­a­tion across Pun­jab to tar­get mil­i­tants, their fa­cil­i­ta­tors and their hide­outs, mil­i­tary sources told on Mon­day.

Sources said the de­ci­sion was taken dur­ing a high-level mil­i­tary hud­dle, chaired by Army chief Gen Ra­heel Sharif at the General Head­quar­ters on Mon­day.

The crack­down would give para­mil­i­tary Rangers ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers to con­duct raids and in­ter­ro­gate sus­pects sim­i­lar to those the Rangers have used for more than two years in Karachi, a se­nior se­cu­rity of­fi­cial based in La­hore told Reuters on con­di­tion of anonymity as he was not au­tho­rised to share de­tails of the plan.

"The tech­ni­cal­i­ties are yet to be worked out. There are some le­gal is­sues also with bring­ing in Rangers, but the mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment are on the same page," he said. One other mil­i­tary of­fi­cial and two gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials con­firmed the de­ci­sion on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Ear­lier on Mon­day , Di­rec­tor General In­ter-Ser­vices Pub­lic Re­la­tions (ISPR) Lt Gen Asim Ba­jwa said a num­ber of sus­pects had been nabbed in five op­er­a­tions across Pun­jab, with­out of­fi­cially say­ing a wide­spread op­er­a­tion had been launched sim­i­lar to those un­der­way in the coun­try's north­west and Karachi.

The op­er­a­tion is con­tin­u­ing with full force. A num­ber of "sus­pected ter­ror­ists and fa­cil­i­ta­tors" were ar­rested dur­ing the five raids which were con­ducted in La­hore, Faisalabad and Mul­tan af­ter the La­hore sui­cide ex­plo­sion, said DG ISPR Asim Ba­jwa.

He added that a "huge cache of arms and am­mu­ni­tion" were also re­cov­ered by se­cu­rity of­fi­cials. Police was also able to iden­tify the La­hore sui­cide bomber as Yousuf, son of Ghu­lam Farid, a res­i­dent of Muz­za­far­garh.

Se­cu­rity per­son­nel have been sta­tioned out­side the al­leged bomber's house in Muzaf­far­garh, and police claim to have ar­rested three mem­bers of his fam­ily for in­ter­ro­ga­tion. PM Nawaz Sharif, while chair­ing a high-level se­cu­rity meet­ing in La­hore on Mon­day, called for more proac­tive co­or­di­na­tion amongst law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies against ter­ror­ism. He said all prov­inces must step up in­tel­li­gence-based op­er­a­tions against ter­ror­ists, adding that the goal is not only to elim­i­nate the ter­ror in­fra­struc­ture but also to get rid of the ex­trem­ist mind­set. Se­nior de­fence an­a­lyst Hasan Askari, while speak­ing to me­dia, said he was of the opinion that the de­ci­sion to con­duct an op­er­a­tion in Pun­jab was "an out­come of what hap­pened in La­hore yes­ter­day". "The Pun­jab gov­ern­ment has wanted to spear­head the en­tire counter-ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the prov­ince through the Counter-Ter­ror­ism Depart­ment. They have said they do not want the Army and Rangers to in­ter­vene." Askari be­lieves a "side has been picked in the ar­gu­ment," with the Army tak­ing the ini­tia­tive. "What re­mains to be seen is whether this is a change of pol­icy or a tem­po­rary re­ac­tion."

"If it is a change of pol­icy, then it can make a dif­fer­ence. But if it is a tem­po­rary re­ac­tion and the Pun­jab gov­ern­ment is not in favour of the op­er­a­tion, then things can get com­pli­cated," Askari said.

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