LAHORE: Security forces, with assistance from Pakistan Army, have launched an operation against terrorists and hardcore criminals in areas of southern Punjab.
“Coordinated operations are underway against terrorists and hardened criminals by law enforcement agencies including Rangers, Punjab police, CTD , assisted by Pakistan army in southern Punjab”, an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said on Wednesday.
The statement added that the terrorists have fled from different parts of the country as a result of operation Zarb-i-Azb, and have taken refuge in the remote areas of Rohjan, Kache in district Rahim Yar Khan.
It is pertinent to mention that this is the first direct action taken by military forces in southern Punjab.
The operation is being led by Corp Commander Lahore, Lt Gen Sadiq Ali, with army troops, Punjab Police, Counter-Terrorism Department and Rangers participating.
South Punjab connection
The decision to conduct a security operation was taken after the horrificGulshan-i-Iqbal park suicide attack in Lahore, which killed at least 72 people including women and children.
Military sources had stated the army and Rangers will conduct a widespread operation across Punjab to target militants, their facilitators and their hideouts, following the carnage in Lahore.
Sources had said the decision was taken during a high-level military huddle, chaired by Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while chairing a high-level security meeting in Lahore, had also called for more proactive coordination amongst law enforcement and intelligence agencies against terrorism.
Analysts believe that south Punjab, with thousands of seminaries and a history of having provided foot soldiers to militant and sectarian outfits for decades, now offers a promising opportunity for the militant Islamic State (IS) to strengthen its network in the region.
“The main battle has to be fought in the tribal backyard, but the job will remain half-done unless the militant sanctuaries and support networks in the cities both in southern and northern Punjab are completely dismantled,” warned a Lahore-based security analyst.