Call in the cavalry
Since 2008 some of the worst terrorist attacks have taken place in Punjab. This is by no means unusual as more militant organisations have originated from Punjab than from any other province. What is more, hundreds of misguided young men were sent by religious parties to fight in Afghanistan. The list of martyrs dying in Kashmir jihad appearing in JuD’s official publications contained scores of names from all over Punjab. More recently there have been reports of several men and women having traveled to Syria to join the IS. In February three police officials were killed in Faisalabad by suspected IS activists. Teachers from LUMS and Punjab University were picked up by police for involvement with terrorist networks. Despite this Punjab government has been in a state of denial regarding any threat from the terrorists.
Two incidents should have alerted the government, the killing of Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada in Attock in August last year and the attack in Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Lahore in March this year. The killings however failed to open its eyes. After the later incident which resulted in more than 70 killed, pressure increased from the army for a coordinated action against the terrorists in the province at divisional and district level. A high level meeting recommended joint actions led by civil and military intelligence agencies. The Punjab government however showed it had no appetite for joint actions. With Tahir ul Qadri demanding deployment of Rangers in Punjab with similar powers as in Sindh, the government was all the more wary of the scheme.
Unsatisfactory performance by the Punjab government led army’s special teams to conduct intelligence based operations in Faisalabad where they are reported to have arrested high-value terrorists and facilitators besides recovering lethal weapons over the week. Meanwhile a summary has been sent to the CM for deployment of Rangers. Hopefully the Rangers’ stay would be short. This will depend on the realisation of the urgency to eradicate the terrorist threat at the earliest and the government making full use of the Rangers’ assistance for the purpose.