LAHORE: The government appears to be groping in the dark with its ‘intensified’ operation launched in Punjab on Monday, with the provincial Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, claiming that at least 5,221 suspects were detained in 24 hours and 5,005 of them were released soon after.

“Since the directive of the prime minister to enhance the frequency of intelligence-based operations (in Punjab) in the wake of the Gulshan-i-Iqbal park tragedy, 5,221 people were taken into custody. But, after verification of data, 5005 were released and 216 were retained for further interrogation,” the minister said at a press conference here on Tuesday.

Home secretary Azam Sultan and IG Mushtaq Sukhera were also present.

Rana Sanaullah said the suspects had been arrested in 56 search operations conducted by police, 16 by the Counter Terrorism Department and 88 joint operations of police and intelligence agencies.

Of the 1,550 suspects with criminal history included in the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act, at least 1,000 were taken into custody.

Answering a question, he played down the role of the army in the operations against suspected terrorists in Punjab, saying it was a “national operation” that had been launched over a year ago with the support of all political and religious parties and state institutions.

In reply to another question, he said that an operation in the riverine areas would be conducted by police and the CTD while Rangers and army personnel could be used if and when needed.

The minister said that 24 ‘terrorists’ had so far been killed in the province this year and 88 in the previous year. Over 15,000 seminaries in the province had been geo-tagged, he said. He categorically stated that there was no safe haven or ‘no-go’ area in the province. He said that in addition to Rangers personnel, 8,200 troops of the Pakistan Army were currently taking part in operations in Punjab.

ISLAMABAD PROTEST: The minister said it was not difficult to disperse protesters in Islamabad by force but the prime minister wanted the issue to be resolved prudently, with the minimum use of force.

The minister also said the government would give financial assistance of Rs1 million to the heirs of each person killed in the Lahore terrorist attack and Rs300,000 to each of the injured. The payment would be completed in two to three days.

He quoted the chief minister as saying that the seriously injured persons would be sent abroad for treatment.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2016

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