LAHORE – A Punjab-wide operation against the banned militant outfits including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) is underway and many of their activists have been detained, a top police officer told TheNation on Wednesday.
The police and intelligence agencies conducted joint raids in different districts of the province and picked up several key activists linked to LeJ, and ASWJ. The arrested men are being grilled in connection with the recent sectarian killings in Lahore, Quetta and Karachi at an undisclosed location.
An important arrest came in Chiniot district, police sources said without naming the person arrested. Another important LeJ member Ghulam Rasool was detained in Bahawalpur District for 30 days under 16 MPO (maintenance of public order), a police officer confirmed.
 “What can I confirm at this moment is that three diehard members of a banned outfit (most probably the LeJ) have been arrested,” Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khan Baig confirmed to this reporter Wednesday evening. However, he did not give any names citing confidentiality of the matter.
Sources in Punjab counter-terrorism department (CTD) said that Abdul Hafeez Makki, a leading member of the ASWJ, and Malik Ishaq, founder of the banned terror outfit LeJ were among those arrested during the Wednesday raids. But this could not be confirmed through other sources.
Intelligence sources informed that raids were underway to nab Malik Ishaq, and ASWJ Chairperson ‘Maulana’ Ahmed Ali Ludhianvi in different districts of the Punjab province. Khan Baig, who is leading the country’s largest law enforcing agency –the Punjab Police- as Acting IGP, further said that Ludhianvi and Malik Ishaq could be detained any time as the police are hunting for them.
The security and intelligence agencies had warned all provincial governments, especially the authorities in Punjab , to act quickly against the militants linked to the banned outfits. Following the bombings in Quetta and assassination of Shia leaders in Lahore and Karachi, they had sent a stern warning to the provincial governments, urging them to take all necessary steps against the militants linked to banned outfits and their ‘supporters’. Security agencies further informed that the foreign sponsored terrorists were behind the recent high-profile assassinations and massive bombings to set off sectarian strife in the country. However, the security agencies successfully foiled the nefarious designs of the anti-state elements. According to some intelligence operatives, extremists linked to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan from the southern Punjab were carrying out sectarian assaults not only in the Punjab but also in the Balochistan province.
Experts say the government launched the crackdown and detained several activists and supporters of the LeJ and ASWJ after the security agencies reported that they had links to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the terror organisation blamed for most of the terrible bombings across Pakistan.
LeJ chief Malik Ishaq has spent more than 10 years in Jail and was released in 2011. Reportedly, ASWJ head Ludhianvi had convinced Ishaq to lay down weapons and join the mainstream religious parties after being de-radicalised. Earlier, Abdul Hafeez Makki helped resolve the misunderstandings between Ludhianvi and Ishaq last year.