ISLAMABAD: Civil and military leaders have decided to keep the country’s western border shut till the ‘region is cleansed of troublemakers’. They have also pledged no let-up in the ongoing ‘blanket crackdown’ against terrorist groups and criminal networks across the country, especially in Punjab.
This was the consensus of participants of a top-level security huddle the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, convened at his office on Monday to review progress and achievements of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, according to an official statement.
Attendees included army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, National Security Adviser Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua, PM’s foreign affairs aide Sartaj Aziz, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and ISI chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.
According to the statement, the meeting decided to further energise efforts for implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism by federal and provincial governments.
“The meeting reiterated unanimously that elimination of extremism and terrorism was a policy imperative for Pakistan’s security. Various laws governing the anti-terrorism efforts were reviewed, and ways and means to make those laws more effective were also discussed,” it added.
Premier Sharif voiced satisfaction at progress made by Pakistan Army and other law enforcement agencies against miscreants and directed that NAP implementation be further expedited.
According to an official, the participants concurred that there should be zero tolerance towards troublemakers, be they terrorists, criminals of any group, cast, community, political party, or sect.
Sources said the Punjab chief minister’s presence in the meeting had much to do with the Rangers’ targeted operation in the province, where certain government figures are reportedly opposed to the action against politically backed-elements linked to criminal and sectarian violence.
Shahbaz, sources said, has assured the meeting that his administration would facilitate and assist the security agencies in the ‘blanket action’ against terrorist groups irrespective of their political and religious affiliations.
“Even if some individuals in the Punjab government have a soft corner for the elements sponsoring religious extremism or running criminal networks, they shall be taken care of,” he reportedly conveyed to the security brass.
A Punjab government official told The Express Tribune that the security establishment had concerns over the Punjab government’s handling of sectarian outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and that was the reason why the security agencies have taken charge of the drive with the Rangers at the forefront.
“High-value targets are secured by the Rangers and intelligence agencies. The provincial law enforcement apparatus is engaged in joint raids to take on the second and third-tier leaders of terror outfits,” the official added.
In a recent conversation with The Express Tribune, Ahmad Ludhianvi, chief of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) confirmed that some activists of his group were detained and some were ‘missing’. “We don’t know if they are alive or dead. We have taken up the issue with the authorities,” he said.
A government source said the detained activists actually belonged to the LeJ and were operating under the camouflage of the ASWJ. “That’s how these groups operate — under changed names and different outlooks to give political flavour to their otherwise heinous activities,” he added.
Closure of border crossings
According to the official statement, the participants of Monday’s meeting also reviewed the recent initiatives on better management of Pakistan-Afghan border.
A source said the meeting has decided to keep the Pak-Afghan border crossings closed till the security operation in the border regions was completed. The major border crossings were sealed on Feb 16 after Jamaatul Ahrar, a TTP splinter group based in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for a series of attacks across the county, especially a deadly suicide attack on devotees of Sufi saint in Sehwan Sharif.
“That terrain cannot be declared fully cleansed due to the involvement of hostile agencies and their proxies. But securing that region to a satisfactory level, so that miscreants do not take advantage of the porous border would definitely do,” said another official.
“The proposal of border fencing that has been under review for the last few years would take time to materialise given the gigantic magnitude of the task and political complexities involved,” he said.
The participants also paid tributes to the sacrifices of military and civilian security personnel and peace-loving people of Pakistan. “It was emphasised that enemies of peace and development would never be allowed to disrupt the attainment of peace and security across the country,” said the statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2017.