ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday launched a massive military operation in Pun¬jab province in the wake of the deadly Taliban suicide bombing in Lahore, conduct¬ing raids and making sever¬al arrests.
Intelligence agencies along with Army and Rang¬ers personnel carried out a series of operations in differ¬ent parts of Punjab, the coun¬try’s most populous province, a day after the suicide blast at a popular park in which 72 people, mostly women and children, were killed.
“A number of suspected terrorists and facilitators have been arrested during the five raids which were con¬ducted in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan after the Lahore suicide explosion,” army me¬dia wing Inter-Services Pub¬lic Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt Gen Asim Bajwa said earlier but did not offi¬cially say that a widespread operation had been launched similar to the ones underway in the country’s northwest and Karachi.
He added that a “huge cache of arms and ammuni¬tion” were also recovered by security officials.
There has long been a de¬mand for launching a mili¬tary operation in southern part of Punjab province be¬cause of the presence of mili¬tants’ hideouts there.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif sepa¬rately chaired high-level se¬curity meetings to review the situation and directed law en¬forcement agencies including Army and Rangers to launch a comprehensive operation in Punjab province.
Police were also able to identify the Lahore suicide bomber as Yousuf, son of Ghu¬lam Farid, a resident of Muz¬zafargarh in southern Punjab.
He was believed to be between 20-25 years old. A sketch prepared with the help of eye-witnesses showed him with a beard.
During the meeting, Sha¬rif was briefed by heads of law enforcement and intelligence agencies on different leads-based progress regarding Sunday’s blast at the park, which was comparatively more crowded due to the East¬er holiday.
The park is located in a posh-locality in Lahore, the hometown of the premier. Mr. Sharif said: “Terrorists and their facilitators will eventually meet their logical end. We have to win the war (against terror). Coward ter¬rorists are targeting innocent children and women.”
The whole nation would have to be united in the face of terrorism, he said, adding that the provinces should speed up intelligence-based operations against terrorists.
“We must take this war to the doors of terrorist outfits before they are able to hit our innocent countrymen.
“We will not let terrorists play with the lives of innocent people,” he said and directed the intelligence agencies have better coordination with each other to prevent terror attacks.
“Our resolve to fight ter¬rorism as a nation and as a government is getting strong¬er… Our goal is not only to eliminate terror infrastruc¬ture but also the extremist mind-set, which is a threat to our way of life,” he said.