LAHORE - Massive information gathering operation to pin down sympathisers and financial supporters of the outlawed TTP is on in Punjab, in line with state efforts to root out terrorism from the country as security forces are already carrying out targeted operations in Fata region.
The operation, being carried out by federal security services in collaboration with provincial law and order agencies to comb out the terror networks, also aims at identifying and neutralising sleeper cells of TTP in Punjab, The Nation has learnt.
The exercise includes monitoring the activities of foreign funded non-governmental organisations, as such organisations have previously been found involved in anti-state activities.
The present operation is intensified form of the cross-country intelligence operation, started in January this year, and it comes following threats from outlawed TTP and its allies of attacks across the country, especially the metropolitan cities.
A senior member of the security establishment on Sunday informed that special sections of country’s leading security services dealing with terrorists have been working round the clock to identify and neutralise terror networks.
He said that the most difficult task is identification and neutralisation of militant sympathisers, called ‘Grey People’ in intelligence terms, as they are very much part of different professions and segments of the society. He said some lists of already identified sympathisers have been forwarded to the high-ups.
Quoting a recent incident, he said that a TTP sleeper cell had been pinned down in Lahore. The arrested included a traffic warden, who was initially a sympathiser but later became an active facilitator. Separating sympathiser cadres from sleeper cells, he said, members of sleeper cells are fully trained to carry out their task anytime, while sympathiser is an untrained supporter, who is not directly involved in militant activity but is driven by the brain washing tactics of militants.
He informed that some financial supporters have also been identified recently in the province and they have been made inactive, while interrogation is continuing to extract further information from these elements. He added that some more suspected financial supporters of the militants were on the watch list and they would be neutralised as soon as something concrete against them surfaces. He said recent communication intercepts of the TTP militants strongly suggests they could attack Punjab’s important areas, security service members, politicians journalists and others.
Brigadier (r) Ghanzanfar, ex-commander MI and ISI Punjab, sharing his experiences with this scribe said, “Certainly financial supporters and sympathisers are vital organ of any terror network.” However, he thinks that sympathiser is the first stage of a sleeper, as soon as a sympathiser becomes facilitator of terror operation he becomes a sleeper.”
Quoting some examples of sympathisers turning into sleepers, he said, “In a recent incident in Karachi some wireless operators of the police were arrested who passed on information to the outlawed TTP network in the provincial capital of Sindh ahead of a raid. Similarly, a traffic warden who was supposed to be sympathiser has been arrested along with members of a TTP sleeper cell in Lahore. The warden became an active part of the sleeper cell by smuggling weapons for them.”
He said that Adnan Rasheed, an air force employee who planned and executed attack on former army chief and president General (r) Pervez Musharraf, was also a part of sympathiser cadre who later became a sleeper and then active militant.
Ghanzanfar, who raised first counter-terrorism unit involving the vital intelligence agencies of the armed forces, said that as commander of the MI, ISI Punjab and in charge of the counter-terrorism unit at GHQ he found southern Punjab the most lucrative nursery for the recruitment of TTP’s Punjabi chapter, also known as Punjabi Taliban, primarily because it was an impoverished area with low levels of education.
Former spymaster said, “I along with the assistance of ISI, MI and other intelligence units of the armed forces and with the special role of Special Services Group (SSG) raised the first effective counter-terrorism unit, besides forming special intelligence units to deal with the enemies of state.”