Recommend UsEmail this PageeGazetteAlislam.org
Punjab govt’s inaction against militants irks GHQ
By Baqir Sajjad Syed
Thursday, 08 Jul, 2010
At least 37 people were killed in an attack on Data Darbar shrine, Lahore. — AFP
ISLAMABAD: While public attention has been focused on the political barbs flying between Islamabad and Lahore, behind the scenes the Pakistan Muslim League-N has earned itself a new and very powerful adversary thanks to its inaction against the ‘Punjabi Taliban’ – the Pakistan Army.
It is now evident that the Punjab government led by the PML-N and the army, which is spearheading counter-terrorism operations, are on a warpath.
At a recent meeting at the General Headquarters (GHQ), senior intelligence officers conveyed their serious concern to the Punjab government over its failure to act against terrorists based in the province on the basis of information provided to it.
Other issues that were discussed included the lax handling of detained terrorists, especially of an injured assailant apprehended after the recent attack on Ahmadi places of worship (he was allowed to communicate with his accomplices from his hospital bed by a cellphone which allowed them to launch an attempt to free him).
Sources say that the meeting was attended by the top officials from both sides.
Nonetheless, officially both sides are denying any knowledge of this exchange. Punjab Government’s Public Relations Director-General Raoof Hassan said he was not aware of any such meeting since it did not appear on the official schedule. He also declined, in his capacity as one of Punjab government’s spokesmen, to assist in getting the comments of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on the issue.
Long before the attack on Ahmadis, an alert was circulated by an intelligence agency warning that a group of militants led by previously little-known Qari Daud had been tasked by the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership to attack the community in Punjab. However, the warning was not heeded.
It is said that warnings about an attack on Data Darbar were also ignored by the provincial authorities.
Besides citing specific instances, sources in the national security apparatus said it was particularly worrying that the PML-N government was in a state of total denial about the existence of the problem in the province which was in the militants’ line of fire.
This spat between the Punjab government and the army turned into a more serious war of words after a news report based on leaks by the provincial authorities surfaced.
The report said the army and intelligence agencies were not cooperating with the Punjab government in investigation into terrorist attacks.
Senior officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, scoffed at the report. “Nowhere in the world do spies stand in the witness box and give testimony,” one of them said.
They also questioned why had the provincial government failed to crack down on militant bases identified by intelligence agencies, including the Bahawalpur seminary run by Maulana Masood Azhar of the banned Jaish-i-Muhammad.
“What has the Punjab government done to round up middle- and low-ranking activists and office-bearers of these outfits? Has it confiscated hate material churned out by them?” are other hard-hitting questions the officers are now raising.
“We have time and again told them to act against the Bahawalpur madressah where a number of militants are hiding. But they are not ready to do so,” one official said. He alleged that the Punjab government was sitting on the fence as far as sectarian-cum-militant organisations were concerned.
Earlier criticism by the federal government was ritually dismissed by the provincial leadership as political point-scoring.
A security analyst said militants always benefited from poor civilian intelligence; a politicised police force; and de-motivated, poorly trained and ill-equipped local law-enforcement paraphernalia in the province.
But now they had a new advantage – those in the provincial political leadership, bureaucracy and LEAs who are willing to turn a blind eye to their activities, he said.
Investigators said that most terrorist attacks in Punjab were linked to the TTP and Punjabi Taliban in contrast to claims by certain quarters that the so-called ‘foreign hand’ was involved in them.
The message from the terrorist groups perpetrating these attacks is that the government should negotiate with the militant organisations and stop its efforts to help the Afghan government reconcile with various warring factions, notably the Haqqani network.
Security officials said they felt encouraged by the federal government’s position of not entertaining any such demands.
However, they revealed that they were taken aback by PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif’s recent media remarks articulating views similar to those of the Taliban and their sympathisers.
Recent media reports had quoted the Punjab home department as having planned action against 23 militant organisations working under new names.
But, the sources say, no notification has been issued to proscribe the outfits that have resurfaced under new names after having been outlawed.
Police officials say they now have new, specific orders to act against terrorist groups. The police, they say, are already working against ‘suspicious elements’.