A tip-off led to a gunbattle and a gunbattle left two militants dead in Lahore on the morning of July 17. Two men, heavily armed, were ensconced less than two miles from the family home of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at Raiwind. It is reported that they intended to attack the PM compound, and are not the first to make the attempt. They fought the security forces for almost ten hours before being overcome, and they killed one security official and injured three others. At the close of the action which was closely covered by all the media channels there was a nondescript house peppered with bullet holes, belts of ammunition and assorted weaponry and a lot of questions.
On the one hand, the police and security agencies can point to this as a success, and it clearly is. An attack on one of the highest officers of state has been averted and for that the nation can be grateful. Equally, it is encouraging that an unidentified individual had the presence of mind to alert the police to suspicious activity. The police were on the ball and the outcome is there for all to see. On the other hand, there is the reality that militants were able to establish a secure base for themselves in plain sight, in a community that is within hailing distance of the PM family residence, and then proceed to fill their nest with a range of weaponry including rocket launchers, several of which were discharged during the battle. Early reports suggest that the militants are not ‘foreign fighters’ as is so often said to be the case, but local and easily able to merge into the background of village life where rented residences change occupants frequently. There is speculation that the planned attack was in retaliation for the operation currently ongoing in North Waziristan, but nothing is confirmed. Effective policing and the support of local communities can and does defeat extremist groups bent on mayhem. We may expect more of the same in the future, we hope with similar success.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2014.
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