Pakistan army chief orders counter-terror operations in Punjab | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Pakistan army chief orders counter-terror operations in Punjab

As Pakistanis count the cost of the suicide bomb attack in Lahore on Monday, the army chief has given the go-ahead for an operation against militants in the southern part of Punjab, the country’s most populous province.

world Updated: Feb 15, 2017 18:52 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Police cordon off the site of a suicide bombing in Lahore. At least 16 people were killed when a suicide blast ripped through a protest in Lahore.
Police cordon off the site of a suicide bombing in Lahore. At least 16 people were killed when a suicide blast ripped through a protest in Lahore.(AFP Photo)

As Pakistanis count the cost of the suicide bomb attack in Lahore on Monday, the army chief has given the go-ahead for an operation against militants in the southern part of Punjab, the country’s most populous province.

Local media reported late on Tuesday that Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had directed officials to launch a “grand operation” against terrorists in south Punjab. The army has so far not carried out any major counter-terror operations in Punjab, which is home to several anti-India groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The news was first reported by ARY News channel, which is seen to be close to the military high command. According to ARY, the army chief said the operation would be carried out after taking the Punjab government into confidence.

Punjab is ruled by the PML-N party, which is also in power at the centre. Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif is the brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Chairing a high-level military meeting in Lahore, Bajwa said, “Operation against terrorists should be expedited.” The meeting was briefed on the suicide attacks outside the Punjab Assembly on Mall Road that killed more than a dozen people.

According to the report, the meeting decided to launch the crackdown against banned groups working with different names. Intelligence-based operations will be escalated and combing operations will be sped up too.

Bajwa also instructed local army commanders and intelligence agencies to provide all assistance to the civilian administration and to apprehend those responsible for the Lahore attack.

So far, the army has refused to comment on the media reports about the operation in Punjab.

Bajwa also extended support for holding the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket tournament in Lahore as earlier planned. The media quoted him as saying that the bomb blast in Lahore was aimed at cancelling the PSL final.

Meanwhile, defence minister Khawaja Asif told the media on Tuesday there were reports of a possible attack on the prime minister last week. He said that following the reports, the government had cancelled the prime minister’s engagements.