Hostile intelligence agency involved in Lahore blast: Punjab CM

Published June 28, 2021
Punjab Chief Minister addresses a press conference in Lahore on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
Punjab Chief Minister addresses a press conference in Lahore on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar disclosed on Monday that a "hostile intelligence agency" was involved in the blast in Lahore's Johar Town last week in which three people were killed and 24 others injured.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Buzdar said terrorists involved in the blast were arrested in the last four days during raids.

The chief minister said that he himself had gone to visit the injured people and orders were given to provide them treatment.

"The Punjab government established an investigation team. I am satisfied to tell you that the investigation was started by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and the suspects were identified within 16 hours. In four days, the terrorists were arrested in raids in the country."

Buzdar termed the arrests a "big success" of the Punjab government and thanked all law enforcement agencies (LEAs) for their efforts.

"It was found that a hostile intelligence agency was involved which provided financial help to this network," he shared. All high-profile cases have been traced and suspects arrested, the chief minister added.

Giving details of the investigation, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Inam Ghani said the police tried to go beyond identifying the car used in the blast and within a few hours, the police had reached the people who owned the car and gained information about how they had gotten it.

"Within hours we had unearthed this whole network and went to arrest [the suspects]. The lynchpin who arranged all this has been arrested, those who arranged the car and those who repaired the car and those who filled the car with explosive material as well — we have all of them.

"We have close to 10 Pakistani citizens — men and women — who were involved in this and who executed it," he revealed.

Ghani said the police had also identified the masterminds behind the explosion who belonged to hostile intelligence agencies. "We have shared [the information] with the federal government and intelligence agencies. A joint investigation team (JIT) has been formed and it will look into [the matter]."

The IGP said the police would investigate what previous cases the suspects were involved in and the hostile intelligence agencies they were linked to, expressing the hope that the police would prosecute the case in a "good way" so those involved would be convicted.

He refuted reports that the name of one of the suspects had been placed on the Fourth Schedule — a list of proscribed individuals who are suspected of terrorism and/or sectarianism under Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997.

Ghani said he had seen a media report stating that the car used in the blast was snatched in 2010. However, the car had been recovered within months and it was later being used on "superdari" (custody) for which the owner had the proper documents, he added.

The car had "original number plates", the official said.

Responding to a question about the suspect, the IGP said he was originally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but he was born and raised in Punjab and spoke fluent Punjabi.

When asked which country the hostile intelligence agency was from and whether its agents were operating in Pakistan, he replied that it would "not be appropriate" to mention them.

"These hostile agencies cannot come inside Pakistan because of how our agencies and immigrations [department] are working. They find agents in Middle East countries. So, no person of an external agency comes and carries out [attacks] himself."

In response to a question about whether any threat alert had been issued ahead of the blast, Chief Minister Buzdar said threat alerts are regularly issued but no threat alert regarding Johar Town had been put out.

He said he had previously announced that compensation would be provided and formalities were being completed in this regard.

Responding to another question, the IGP said police had complete footage from the day of the blast, adding that no one had reported the car.

"The target was the same two police pickets and our people were injured. No one gave any report that any car was there and they had alerted police. When the car entered Punjab, it had original number plates and there was nothing in the car. If we start checking the trunk of every car, the [number of cars travelling on the] motorway will be halved."

Ghani shared that police were successful in stopping between 20 and 25 such attacks from happening every year.

When asked whether any family had approached the police before the blast to warn them, he said: "This is all speculation. No family came to us. No police constable got all this information you are mentioning. This is all speculation."

The IGP was then asked whether a big network had become active against Pakistan to which he replied that "all hostile agencies are continuously working against Pakistan and trying to embarrass it."

He noted that the blast had taken place during a plenary session of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), saying "we think the basic target was to embarrass Pakistan but that did not happen."

"We were successful in not only unearthing [the suspects] but also connections with hostile intelligence agencies are clear. The hope is that our agencies and Foreign Office will reach them and get them punished," he concluded.

On Wednesday, a powerful blast near the residence of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in Lahore's Johar Town had killed three people and injured 24 others, including a police constable.

Six-year-old Abdul Haq, his father Abdul Malik, 50, and a young passerby died in the explosion that left a four-foot-deep and eight-foot-wide crater on the road and damaged several houses and shops nearby.

Quoting intelligence and surveillance staff, a report submitted to the chief minister had confirmed that the blast was carried out through remote control. It caused severe damage to seven nearby houses and some shops, while police were awaiting the forensic report to determine the nature of the explosive material used.

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