LAHORE: The Punjab government claims to have arrested a facilitator and eliminated the terrorist network involved in Monday’s suicide attack in Lahore in which 15 people were killed.
The government has supported the revival of military courts to conduct trial of terrorism suspects.
“We have identified and busted the network responsible for the February 13 attack,” Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told reporters at his Model Town office on Friday evening. He lauded the joint efforts of the police, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in nabbing the suspects.
The chief minister said the facilitator had divulged that their network was operating from within Afghanistan. The video recording of the confessional statement of Anwaarul Haq, the handler of the suicide bomber, was also screened.
While holding out assurance that the government would raise the issue of Afghan soil being used to launch attacks in Pakistan, the chief minister urged the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan to help the government identify ‘black-sheep’ among them.
He expressed the hope that the prime minister would soon convene a meeting of all chief ministers to work out a joint stance on the issue.
The CM parried a question about Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan’s call for a grand military operation against sleeper cells and facilitators of terrorists in Punjab.
“There is no harm in even conducting a ‘super grand’ operation if need be,” said the chief minister, and added that the CTD and federal intelligence agencies had been foiling terrorist plans and arresting suspects for the past two-and-a-half years. “Even the suspects involved in the Gulshan-i-Iqbal suicide attack [in March 2016] have been sent packing to hell.”
The chief minister, however, said that the army and Rangers could be called in on the need basis.
He was critical of what he termed “political point scoring on the terrorism issue” by Imran Khan. “I didn’t want to give a political talk today. But the statement of a [certain] political party’s chief has really hurt me as the person preferred to criticise the police and government [while] ignoring the fact that terrorism is a common problem of the masses and a question of life and death.”
Appealing to all political parties to avoid scoring political points on such tragic incidents, Shahbaz Sharif said he was equally saddened by the terrorist attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as he was by the one in Lahore and elsewhere in the country.
Responding to a question about the revival of military courts, the chief minister said his party was in favour of extending the tenure of the courts arguing that this had caused fear among the terrorists.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2017