LAHORE: The Punjab Counter Terrorism Department cannot rule out threat of Paris-like attacks in Lahore and elsewhere in the province, a senior CTD official has said.
Another senior official has said a seminary in south Punjab has been sealed for providing militant training to its students.
The two officials were briefing journalists on Tuesday about security arrangements being made for the coming local government elections in the province. Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was also present on the occasion.
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There is no election-related threat from the Middle East-based Islamic State militant group, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, said CTD’s additional inspector general Rai Tahir. “But there are threats from the international terrorist organisation to Punjab,” he said.
As a precaution, he said, all the sensitive places and social media sites from where controversial messages could be spread were being monitored.
Mr Tahir said that details about the sensitive places and websites would be shared with the media at an appropriate time.
Provincial Home Secretary Maj (retired) Azam Sultan said the seminary in south Punjab which had been sealed was affiliated to Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, whose chief cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz had pledged allegiance to IS.
He said the authorities had taken Maulana Aziz’s statements about IS seriously and were monitoring whether the terrorist group had been able to make inroads into the province.
Though Lal Masjid, which hit headlines during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule when it had to be raided by army personnel in 2007, does not fall in the jurisdiction of the provincial government, Punjab is giving its input to the federal authorities and taking all possible measures to suppress chances of spread of extremism from the seminary, he added.
Rana Sanaullah said that action would be taken by the provincial government if IS was found to be active in any manner in the province. “Whether the person involved with Daesh is a seminary teacher or a college teacher, he won’t go scot-free.”
When asked if south Punjab could be described as a breeding ground for IS, he said Daesh is the name of a mindset which may rear its ugly head anywhere in the province.
He said that religious schools in the Seraiki belt of Punjab were being monitored to check entry of terrorists into the province.
The minister said that all the seminaries in Punjab had been geo-tagged and the authorities knew where seminaries were located and how many.
He admitted that people listed in the Fourth Schedule, a list comprising the elements that had taken part in militant activities or suspected to have links with militants, included some madressah teachers and students.
But he added that such people had been forced out of the seminaries and the schools were no longer involved in militancy.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2015