Five men allegedly planning to target Muharram processions, government officials, including the prime minister and the Punjab chief minister, and important buildings such as the American Embassy have been arrested.
The Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) Lahore made the arrests in Dubai with the help of the International Criminal Police Organisation, commonly known as Interpol, and shifted them to Lahore on a special flight on Thursday.
CIA SP Umar Virk said the accused were associated with the banned sectarian militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and were members of its death squad.
He said they were planning to attack PM Nawaz Sharif and his brother CM Shahbaz Sharif among other high-profile government figures, as well as TV anchorpersons.
They had also conducted reconnaissance of the American Embassy, the Punjab Assembly and other important buildings, he added.
SP Virk said the accused – three of whom have been identified as Haroon (who carries a head money of Rs2.5 million), Rasheed and Ayaz – were involved in the killing of 14 people, including Allama Nasir Abbas Naqvi, Prof Dr Syed Ali Haider and Haider’s minor son.
Naqvi, a Shia cleric of Multan, was gunned down on December 17, 2013 in Lahore. He was associated with the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafaria.
He was on his way home after attending a Majlis (assembly) when some motorcyclists opened fire on him near the FC College Underpass.
Haider, head of ophthalmology department of the Lahore General Hospital, was taking his 12-year-old son Murtaza Ali to the Aitchison College when they were shot dead near the FC College.
The CIA officer said Shahabuddin – the ringleader of the arrested gang and a close aide of LeJ chief Malik Ishaq, who was killed in a police encounter in Muzaffargarh on July 29 – still eluded the police.
He said Shahabuddin’s name was listed on the Anti-Terrorism Act’s fourth schedule, which meant he could not relocate from his permanent residence without seeking prior permission from the police. The ringleader was under police surveillance, but he managed to flee to Dubai, he added.
“The last time he was spotted was at Ishaq’s funeral, following which the local police sought Interpol’s help in arresting him.” Virk said a senior police officer was sent to the UAE to trace Shahabuddin.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.