LAHORE – More than 100 activists including several ‘diehard followers’ of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) have been detained across the Punjab province, a top police officer disclosed to TheNation on Friday.
“Some 100-plus activists (of the LeJ or SSP) are in our custody. They are being investigated in connection with the cases pending against them,” Khan Baig, Acting Inspector General of the Punjab police said.
It was also learnt that the police and intelligence agencies are conducting joint raids in different districts of the province to pick up key activists linked to LeJ, SSP, and ASWJ. Most of the activists were arrested from Bahawalpur, Chiniot, Multan, Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur, Bahawalnagar, and DG Khan districts.
However, independent sources revealed that the arrests could not be less than 200 as the police are directed to intensify clamped down on the religious activists linked the banned outfits all over the province.
When asked whether the detained activists are being grilled in connection with the recent sectarian attacks, the provincial police chief declined to comment further. However, he said that they were being interrogated in connection with the previous cases (FIRs) registered against them.
Responding to a question about the detention of Maulana Ahmed Ali Ludhianvi, Chief of Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) in the ongoing crackdown, the IGP Punjab said that the department had not received such orders from the quarters concerned so far.
According to informed sources, as the five-year term of the present elected government draws near, the crackdown against the banned organisation would be widened before a major operation in the Punjab, presumably during the caretaker set-up.
The police have been directed to also hunt down those who had been financing the banned outfits by examining their other funding sources and take action under the Anti-Terrorist Act and 16 MPO (Maintenance of Public Order). The District Police Officers (DPOs) are leading the special teams at district level and they are bound to submit their reports to the Inspector General of Police (Punjab) on regular basis.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed on Friday that the LeJ was involved in different ‘activities’ across the country and that operations launched against militants and terrorist outfits by security forces was yielding positive results.
At a private news channel, Malik also claimed that LeJ was using the Punjab province as a hideout. He further said that particulars including a list of 734 activists of LeJ had been given to the Punjab government. But why the Punjab government is not taking action against banned outfit, Malik raised the question on the news channel.
When this reporter asked the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Punjab, did his department receive any list from the Interior Ministry in this regard,he replied, “Let me check it first,” suggesting that the Police Department had not received such an information yet.
Following the bombings in Quetta and assassination of Shia leaders in Lahore and Karachi, the security agencies sent a stern warning to the provincial governments, urging the government to take all necessary steps against the militants linked to banned outfits and the ‘well-wishers’ of the terrorists. Intelligence sources believed that the foreign sponsored extremists linked to LeJ and SSP from the Southern Punjab were carrying out sectarian attacks against minorities not only in the Punjab but also in Balochistan.
The LeJ and SSP leaders including Ghulam Rasool, Abdul Hafeez Makki, and Malik Ishaq had already been detained for 30 days under the 16MPO.