LAHORE: Police swooped on supected hideouts of outlawed militant groups in four districts across southern Punjab and rounded up more than three dozen people it claimed were front-ranking cadre of these organisations, officials said on Sunday.
The arrests were made following raids in Sahiwal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan on the night between Saturday and Sunday. Officials told The Express Tribune that the crackdown was launched silently and without much fanfare.
According to a breakdown, eight suspects were arrested from Sahiwal, 12 from Bahawalpur, around half a dozen from Multan and the rest from Dera Ghazi Khan.
There are however indications that obsolete information was used to carry out clandestine raids on several madrassas and mosques as well as homes of suspected militants. Some police officials confirmed that law enforcement personnel had relied heavily on “outdated lists of sectarian people” – which had been prepared by the home department in 1990 – before mounting the operation.
They also said that their colleagues chose to fall back on the old method of detaining the suspects under section 16 of Mainte-nance of Public Order (MPO) which would guarantee them freedom in a matter of a week or a month.
According to sources, the raids on some homes brought embarrassment because the suspects who once resided there were no longer alive.
Their names were still present on the consolidated list of the home department though.
Insiders claimed that the police had spared Jaish-e-Muhammad from the operation it had carried out in Bahawalpur range.
Two decades ago, the home department prepared a consolidated list of around 800 persons who were involved in various acts of sectarian violence or other related crimes. It also circulated the names of sectarian outfits and identified them as approved persons who might be a threat to the law and order of the concerned district.
Sources added that the home department had been issuing this obsolete list of sectarian outfits even in 2010.
Regional Police Officer Amjad Javeed Saleemi told The Express Tribune that Sahiwal range police had rounded up eight activists of banned militant outfits and conducted raids in Sahiwal and Okara. Saleemi confirmed that these sectarian outfits were identified by the home department in 1990.
He said that the detained persons would be put behind bars under section 16 of MPO.
RPO Bahawalpur Aftab Cheema told The Express Tribune that he would take charge of the Bahawalpur range within two days and the midnight operation had been conducted under the acting RPO. Cheema vowed to take stern action against the banned organisations in his range.
RPO DG Khan Ahmad Mubarak told this publication that the operation was carried out under a proper plan and at the time of the raids he was in Lahore. He promised to share the official version with the media on Monday.
A senior police official in Multan said that raids had been conducted at various madrassas belonging to hardcore militant outfits. He said that over half a dozen arrests had been made under 16 MPO.
The district police officer in Rahimyar Khan told The Express Tribune that the police had raided the madrassas of Maulana Muhammad Akber Awan. After that the police raided several houses of a banned militant outfit located at Jinnah Park and made some arrests.
Police officials raided the residence of one office bearer of a banned organisation, Faizul Haq Usmai, who had died in 2008.
One senior police official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that law enforcement personnel should have undertaken comprehensive planning before mounting the operation.
The official said that the frontline leaders of banned groups are used to facing the police and courting arrest under 16 MPO. Once the front-ranking cadre are taken into custody, the second and third lines of these outfits usually go in hiding. That is why it is important for law enforcement personnel to arrest the second and third line of the organisations allegedly involved in terrorism.
Defense analyst Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood told The Express Tribune that if the government has arrested the front-ranking cadre of banned organisations then it should detain them under various criminal clauses instead of 16 MPO. “The government should arrest all the front line of banned organisations and ensure that they receive punishment through the courts,” he said.
Masood said the Punjab government ought to disassociate itself from outlawed militant outfits.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2010.