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Thursday, 31 March 2016
Punjab military operation: PML-N fears vote bank damage
ISLAMABAD - Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has made it clear to all and sundry that the counter-terrorism operation launched in Punjab will be across the board, a proposition the ruling party in the province taking with skepticism. Well-placed security and political sources told The Nation yesterday that General Raheel Sharif had categorically directed his commanders to ensure transparency and fair play in the operation regardless of any political consideration. Under the intelligence-based operations (IBOs) launched by the army and Rangers on Sunday, a number of terrorists and their facilitators have been arrested from Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan. The operation continues with full force. According to sources, this is probably the reason the ruling party in the province is not happy with the military move and is reluctant to give a free hand to Rangers. “Since the PML-N derives political support from the sympathisers of various banned terrorist outfits, it fears a sizeable number of its MPs may bear the brunt,” political sources following the development said. They believed some of the key leaders of the PML-N could make to the parliament largely with the support of such organisations and their sympathisers. Though some members of the party have rejected this perception, sources said they were reluctant to accept the direct role of the army and Rangers in the counter-terrorism operations. They alleged some PML-N MNAs and MPAs from the Punjab are not only sympathisers of the extremist forces but also are running seminaries to support their cause. They also pointed out that other political parties in the province which had direct or indirect support or sympathy of extremist forces would also be targeted in the operation. On the other hand, the ruling party in the Punjab is also twisting the military move as a tacit understanding between the civil and military leaders and as part of their strategy to conduct parallel operations being carried out by the intelligence agencies, the army and Rangers by Counter-Terrorism Department and the provincial police. Sources in the ruling party said the objective of the two parallel operations in the province was the same to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) effectively in the most transparent manner. The Punjab Home Department has already clarified that it has no instructions to issue any notification regarding the military and Rangers’ special operations in the province. According to the sources, the action will be conducted under a verbal understanding between the military and civilian authorities. However, some members of the Punjab Assembly have confirmed that a request has been pending with the provincial head for last two months to engage Rangers to deal with the resurgence of the banned outfits’ activities. The groups to face the blow are already designated as terrorists. They include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, al-Qaeda, Khuddam-ul-Islam (ex-Jaish), Hizb-ut-Tahrir and TTP as well as its associates, including Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. As per the list firmed up by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), there are 36 terrorists belonging to TTP and its splinters, 28 to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, 30 to Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, 27 to Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan, 14 to Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, eight to al-Qaeda and 14 to others. Some of the executed high-ranking terrorists mainly belonged to southern parts of the province, which gave credence to the military and Rangers to focus on South Punjab.