The federal government on Wednesday approved a request forwarded by the Government of Punjab for the deployment of Rangers personnel in the province.
The decision was taken by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan during a high-level meeting attended by National Security Adviser Nasir Khan Janjua, Federal Secretary Interior Arif Ahmad Khan, Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed and other officials of the Punjab government.
The Rangers will 'assist' Punjab police and law enforcement agencies in their fight against terror for a period of 60 days, initial reports suggested.
Punjab had requested the federal government to deploy over 2,000 Rangers personnel in the province, who would be given policing powers to conduct intelligence-based operations (IBOs) against militants, wherever required and with full authority.
The province had been resisting such powers for the Rangers whenever the issue came up in the past. Officials told Dawn that the force is now being called in and given sweeping powers specifically for IBOs.
Rangers are expected to work in league with the provincial Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD). Regular police will be asked for support only if required, a government official had earlier told Dawn.
The paramilitary force is being given powers under Section 5 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
All terror-related cases will be registered at CTD police stations. Rangers will also be able to get cases registered under the law with legal cover for all other actions during and after operations.
Section 5(1) of the ATA states that any police officer, or member of the armed forces, or civil armed forces (Rangers) who is present or deployed in any area may, after giving sufficient warning, use the necessary force to prevent the commission of terrorist acts or scheduled offences.
In doing so he, in the case of an officer of the armed forces or civil armed forces, shall exercise all the powers of a police officer under the Code (Criminal Procedure Code 1898)”.
Section 5(2) of the law says that in particular and without prejudice to generality of the provisions of subsection, an officer of the police, armed forces and civil armed forces may, after giving prior warning use such force as may be deemed necessary or appropriate bearing in mind all the facts and circumstances of the situation, against any person who is committing a terrorist act or a scheduled offence.
It shall be lawful for any such officer or any superior officer to fire or order the firing upon any person or persons against whom he is authorised to use force. This they will do while arresting without warrant any person who has committed an act of terrorism or a scheduled offence or is suspected of any such act.
The officer also has powers for entering and searching, without warrant, any premises to make any arrest or to take possession of any property, firearm, weapon or article used, or likely to be used, for any offence of terrorism.
The decision to deploy Rangers in Punjab had been taken on Sunday at a meeting of the provincial apex committee presided over by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and attended, among others, by the national security adviser, Lahore Corps Commander Lt Gen Sadiq Ali, and Punjab Rangers Director General Maj Gen Azhar Naveed Hayat.
The decision came in the aftermath of a suicide attack at Charing Cross on Lahore's Mall Road on Feb 13, which claimed the lives of 14, including Deputy Inspector General Capt Mubin and Senior Superintendent of Police Zahid Nawaz Gondal.