Sunday June 16, 2024

Did army chief consult PM on Punjab operation?

By Ansar Abbasi
March 29, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The launch of a military operation against terrorists in Punjab as announced by the ISPR in the backdrop of the Lahore attack has annulled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s policy of getting such work done by the police and the Counter Terrorism Department.

Informed sources said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in particular has been resisting a Karachi-like military-Rangers operation in Punjab. But Sunday’s brutal terrorist attack in Lahore has led to the launch of a military operation in the province.

Interestingly, the announcement of initiation of the military operation in Punjab has come from the ISPR and there is no hint in the military spokesman’s statement whether the action has been initiated with the consultation and approval of the civilian governments — both at the Centre and in Punjab.

On this subject, no statement has been issued by the federal government. However, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Geo that media reports about the operation have no basis. He added that nothing new is happening. Rana said that civil-military coordination was already there through the mechanism of the apex committee.

However, in fact this is for the first time that the army, Rangers and military-led intelligence agencies are conducting operations in the province without involving the police and the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of the province. Previously, all such ground operations were conducted by the police and CTD.

More importantly, although Rana Sanaullah does not see anything new in what was already going on in Punjab, the DG ISPR clearly talked of the commencement of the operation on the orders of the army chief.

On Sunday night, the DG ISPR in a tweet had announced that the army chief chaired a high level security meeting, attended by the DG ISI, DG MI and others, and “directed” the concerned commanders, intelligence agencies “to commence operation as soon as possible” to find linkages and perpetrators of the Lahore suicide attack.

On Monday, the DG ISPR said that the army chief chaired another high level security meeting at the GHQ to review the progress of the operation in Punjab. He also informed that the army and Rangers along with intelligence agencies personnel carried out five operations in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan since last night. No such details were shared with the media by the provincial government.

In the ISPR statement, there was neither any mention of the police, the provincial CTD or any other civilian agency nor any of them were actually involved on the ground by the military.On Monday morning, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a high-level meeting in the provincial capital to discuss the situation in the wake of Lahore attack that killed over 70 people, including women and children.

The information provided to the media by the government sources did not make any reference to the military operation, now launched in Punjab on the direction of the army chief.In his televised speech to the nation on Monday night, the prime minister also avoided making any reference to the military operation launched in Punjab.

Government sources said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been reluctant to directly engage the military in the policing matters in the province.In his interaction with the military leadership, he used to insist that the Punjab Police were effectively doing their job and thus never allowed direct military actions as were now being done.

The launch of a military operation in Punjab is a major policy shift but it is not yet confirmed whether the prime minister and the chief minister Punjab’s nod was sought for this.For many observers, this is an unfortunate situation that the terrorists continue to kill innocents while the civil and military establishments are giving confused signals, which could only benefit the terrorists and their networks.