LAHORE: The Punjab police on Wednesday morning launched a grand counterterrorism operat­ion in the highly complex and inac­cessible hilly areas of Mian­wali district, hours after some heavily equipped militants of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakis­tan (TTP) attacked a police station in the area in the dead of the night.

The go-ahead for the operation was given at a meeting attended by chief secretary, inspector general of police, heads of the intelligence agencies and several reg­ional and district police officers.

“We have grounded many field formations of the Punjab police under a new policy, called HITS, Hunt, Impede, Thwart and Serve,” IG police Dr Usman Anwar told Dawn.

This HITS operation would not be called off till the elimination of armed militants from the territories of Mianwali district, the police chief declared.

He vowed that this force would give a deterrent response to the terrorists and purge them from Punjab territories.

The police chief said a decision was taken to launch a ‘large-scale and sustainable’ operation aga­i­nst the militants behind the att­ack on Makkarwal police station in Mianwali late Tuesday night.

The meeting of security officials held just hours after the attack also took some other important decisions, prepared a set of guidelines and devised strategies to ensure coordination between security apparatus against the TTP’s presence in Punjab.

DIG Ahsan Younis, who has been assigned a key role in the police operation, said the highly trained police personnel and commandos from the three regions, the counterterrorism department, special protection unit and the elite force were taking part in the operation.

He told Dawn that human and logistic resources had been moved from various regions of the Punjab province to Mianwali to ‘hit the hideouts’ of the TTP men in highly complex terrain.

“Makkarwal was the nearest police station to the hilly area from where the armed militants of the TTP launched the offensive,” the officer pointed out.

About the late-night attack, which was ‘repulsed’ by police, DIG Younis said intelligence sources had alerted the Makkarwal police about movement of the armed men in the nearest hilly areas, only hours before the assault.

Police personnel had been put on high alert and they returned the fire as soon as a gunner from a nearby hillside opened fire. Suddenly, firing intensified from multiple points, he said. The personnel responded promptly to stop militants from advancing towards the police station, and managed to repulse the attack, he explained.

However, the militants used the cover of darkness to disappeared into the hilly terrain, DIG Younis said.

Terrain

Starting from Mianwali’s Makkarwal area, the hilly terrain — spread over 300km to 400km — continues till the boundary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where an operation has already been underway against militants, according to the DIG.

Punjab police has also shared information with KP’s law enforcement agencies to devise a strategy to hit the hideouts of terrorists, who sneaked into the Mianwali district under the cover of darkness to attack the police station and disappeared into the mountains, he said.

He said the Punjab police chief reached the Mianwali district on Wednesday morning, met personnel from the Makkarwal police station and distributed Rs3.5 million among them as a cash reward for acting promptly and repulsing the TTP attack.

On the occasion, IG Anwar also ordered establishment of 40 moveable police posts in the district and issued directive to the relevant departments to ensure completion of the under-construction police building to shift the Makkarwal police there.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2023

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