Reports say government has decided to start a clean-up operation in southern Punjab
It is being reported that the government has finally decided to stop sitting on both its hands and several fences simultaneously, and mount a clean-up in southern Punjab. If this proves to be the case, it is a move we welcome and offer little by caveat other than to say that the operation is long overdue and needs to be conducted with forensic thoroughness. The reports are not detailed — operational sensitivities will be paramount — but speak of intelligence-driven moves against those organisations promoting sectarian hatreds in particular. Targeted raids have been going on for some time, though they have been relatively small scale, but a decision was taken in the last month at a meeting between the civil and military powers that be for a “decisive push” within the ambit of the National Action Plan (NAP).
Southern Punjab has been an elephant in the room ever since the inception of the NAP. The failure to target sectarian organisations in the area left a gaping hole in the NAP and there have been repeated questions across media platforms as to why this should be. In all likelihood, the decision will have been pushed through by the military, and there are political penalties that are going to be paid if it goes ahead and has the depth and reach that crosses political red lines — lines that do not exist militarily.
There is a possibility of Islamic State moving into the area, with there being anecdotal evidence that it already has. Intelligence agencies have warned of this possibility and the federal government has now had its head hauled out of the sand — denial is no longer the preferred option. There are around 7,000 madrassas in the area, many of them thought to be foreign-funded, and some madrassas are widely believed to provide rear-echelon support and rest and recuperation for Taliban fighters from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan. Many are said to have been monitored in recent months, and a handful already shut down. This is a significant policy shift that if carried through may signal that the government is, at last, truly getting serious about fighting terrorism. We hope it is.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.
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