Ownership of the operation against terrorists in Punjab
By Naheed Niazi
There is a hot discussion going on in Pakistani media claiming that civil-military relations are uncomfortable and Pakistan Army announced operation against terrorists in Punjab on its own and without taking civilian government into confidence after TTP attacked Christian families in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore.
In a series of tweets on March 28, the Director General ISPR Lieutenant General Asim Saleem Bajwa said that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif presided over a high level meeting at the GHQ to review the progress of operation in Punjab to nab terrorists in the aftermath of Lahore blast.
ISPR also said that it was informed that the LEAs accompanied with Pakistan Army and Rangers had conducted five operations in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan just after blast and the operation will continue.
After some hours of this meeting in GHQ, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed to launch an operation in South Punjab. This decision came in a meeting attended by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab law Minister Rana Sanaullah and Punjab Home Secretary Azam Suleman among other high level officials in Lahore.
On March 29, the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah with full responsibility and confidence said that there is (was) no terrorist hideout in Punjab. In a press conference in Lahore, he said that under the 20-point national plan of action, joint operations are also being carried out in Punjab by Pakistan Army, Rangers, police and other law enforcement agencies (LEAs). He claimed that terrorists do not have any organized network in Punjab. The provincial minister said that as many as 5,221 suspects have been arrested in Punjab in various operations conducted by police, Rangers and Counter Terrorism Department (CTD). Interestingly, CTD killed four top TTP and LeJ terrorists in Lodhran, a city of Southern Punjab just two days (on March 25 evening) before Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore blast. Lahore was put on high alert when CTD arrested another bunch of terrorists from Town Ship on March 26 Lahore after gathering information from Lodhran incident. Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore blast took place on March 27.
Rana Sanaullah Khan did not explain that how 5,221 suspects had been arrested from Punjab if there were no hideouts of terrorists in the Punjab while Pakistani media looks also shy to tell how operation was started in Punjab just after Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore blast when CTD had already arrested 5,221 suspects before Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore blast and killed top TTP terrorists in Lodhran just two days ago of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park Lahore blast.
Circumstantial evidences and news item published in newspaper during the last one year indicates that operation against terrorists is going on in Punjab and there are certain terrorist hideouts in Southern Punjab where operation had never been as harsh as it could have and should have been because Southern Punjab is known for a breeding ground of sectarianism and extremism since decades. This land had been playing a pivotal role to provide Jihadis for Afghan Jihad since early 80s. Investment of different countries is huge for constructing religious schools in Southern Punjab and political linage of Southern Punjab mostly links with sitting government historically. Since PMLN is in power over decades therefore political linkages of important people of Southern Punjab providing vote bank to PMLN is a normal political phenomenon.
A former Commissioner of Bahawalpur prepared an excellent but horrible report in 90s that indicates how the cancer of extremism and terrorism was spreading through religious schools in Southern Punjab and how many Jihadis this land was providing to Afghan Jihad annually. However such reports are usually kept in cold storages in Islamabad therefore no action was taken against anybody. One of the reasons for throwing such reports in cold storages was active involvement of Pakistan in making Taliban in Afghanistan therefore providing Jihadis was a “National Cause”. Some reports were leaked to media in early 2000 about role of Southern Punjab sectarian killing and spreading violence to Punjab and other provinces but these reports also did not get attention of rulers for oblivious or obvious reasons.
We certainly believe that now State has decided to start operation clean up against extremism for this time or may be for all times to come because controlling extremism is the need of this time and “National Cause” demands operation against terrorism and extremism all over the country including Southern Punjab.
Sane element of society believes that let them take ownership whosoever wishes to take it for initiating this action against terrorism but action must be continued across the board and without discrimination.
Some political circles in Lahore believe that PMLN can be shy to share ownership of ruling Punjab with anybody even with Pakistan Army and can feel that involvement of Pakistan Army in operation can threat its writ of government in the only province it rules. PMLN can believe that slowly but surely Pakistan Army is taking away real ruling power from PMLN after virtually ruling Foreign Affairs. PMLN can think anything but the cause of peace in country should be bigger than political interests and PMLN should ask Pakistan Army to take the responsibility and ownership of action against terrorists in Punjab for larger interest of the country. Political circles in Lahore believe that moving Army Jawans to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park after blast was an interesting development because civil authorities were performing rescue operation in befitting manners and there was no need for Army Jawans at the scene. District Administration of Lahore is shy to comment whether it called Army or Army just volunteered itself for rescue operation.
One should understand the reality (at least now) that terrorist is not a friend of anybody and he has his own agenda to rule the country therefore there is no place for anybody in his design as “ruler” except himself.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.