LAHORE: Calling Monday’s suicide bombing outside the Punjab Assembly an attempt to sabotage the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa pledged full support to authorities for holding the match according to schedule. And the Punjab government, meanwhile, said there was no need for a paramilitary operation against terrorists and extremists in the province.
The fate of the PSL final has been hanging in the balance since Monday’s deadly blast, with PSL Chairman Najam Sethi conceding that foreign players taking part in the mega event in Dubai were unwilling to travel to Lahore after the deadly bombing.
Against this backdrop, the army chief chaired a security meeting at the Corps Headquarters in Lahore where Corps Commander Lt Gen Sadiq Ali and intelligence agencies briefed him on the blast.
Such incidents can neither lower “our national resolve nor can affect our ongoing efforts against terrorism”, he said. Terrorists of all hues and colours, their masters, financiers, planners and abettors, including from outside, will be hunted across the country, held accountable and responded to. Our gains over the years cannot be reversed.”
The army chief appreciated the efforts of the intelligence agencies which have resulted in important arrests overnight including a few Afghan nationals. He directed to expedite efforts to unearth their complete network.
Gen Qamar also visited the family of DIG Capt (retd) Ahmad Mubeen and offered Fatiha. Talking to the mother of the martyred police official, he said the sacrifice of her brave son shall not go to waste. “We have to defeat this inhuman brutal mindset and as a nation we shall,” he resolved. Gen Qamar also visited the injured at the Services Hospital.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, cut short his Karachi visit and rushed to Lahore to chair a high-level meeting to review the security situation in the province in the backdrop of the suicide hit.
Interior Minister Chaudary Nisar Ali Khan was also called to Lahore on a short notice to attend the meeting, according to the sources. This led credence to rumours that the government was planning a Rangers-led operation in the province.
However, the provincial government was quick to quash the rumour mongering, saying it was not an option and never came under discussion in Tuesday’s meeting. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the Punjab police was already conducting operations against terrorists in liaison with the military agencies. “Police and the agencies are working hand in hand,” he said.
Sanaullah claimed that the police have identified the suicide bomber and his handler. “Both are of Afghan origin and belonged to the Jamaatul Ahrar faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan – the group that claimed responsibility for the bombing,” he added.
According to him, investigation has revealed that the group had been behind four major terrorist attacks in Punjab: Wahga border bombing, Police Lines attack, Ghulshan-e-Iqbal Park suicide blast and assassination of then Punjab home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada.
Reacting to the statement of PTI Chairman Imran Khan who called for an operation in Punjab, Sanaullah said he should worry about his own province [K-P where the PTI is in power]. “Terrorists enter Punjab from other provinces,” he said while alluding to K-P and adjoining tribal regions.
Attendees at Tuesday’s meeting chaired by Premier Sharif included top members of the federal cabinet and Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. AIG CTD Rai Tahir briefed the prime minister on the blast and progress in investigation. He claimed that they had foiled 12 terrorist plots last year, while 231 terrorists had been killed and 769 arrested by the CTD Punjab.
Premier Sharif reiterated his resolve that the war against terrorism would be taken to its logical conclusion. “The army and other civil law enforcement agencies have given matchless sacrifices to achieve great success in this war. No one should think that we will stumble in this struggle due to such terror attacks,” he said. “Our enemies will be defeated by our national resolve.”
Sharif said it was a national duty to wipe out terrorism. “Neither I nor this nation will forget the sacrifices of our valiant police officers. This is a war of right and wrong and we, as a nation, are on the right side of history in this war,” he said. “We will see soon the end of this cancerous terrorism and its ideology. Swift, ruthless and successful response is the only option for us.”
Earlier in the day, Premier Sharif and his brother, along with the federal cabinet members visited the residence of DIG Capt (retd) Ahmed Mubeen to offer condolences to the bereaved family. The Sharif brothers said DIG Mubeen has sacrificed his life during the performance of his duty for a great cause and his blood will not go to waste.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2017.