The strategy behind the Punjab Operation is seemingly based on trial and error, if the number of arrests and the subsequent release of most suspects is anything to go by. On Tuesday, Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, released details of operations conducted by civilian security forces, in which 5221 suspects were initially apprehended. After investigations, 5005 were released. The government might term this prudence, but it is obvious that most arrests were made without any evidence. Out of 5000, roughly 1000 were those whose names were listed on the Fourth Schedule. This is one of the only things that the government deserves to be commended for in this entire episode because bringing known sectarian clerics was much needed. However, letting them go a day later is not really conducive to promoting a hate-free environment.

The Counter Terrorism Department’s (CTD) involvement at this time is also worthy of note. After the attack on Gulshan-i-Iqbal park, it was the army, and not the government or civilian security forces that leapt into action. General Raheel Sharif was personally monitoring the progress of the raids conducted on the night of the attack. The civilian government was nowhere in the picture. The Punjab government has refused to grant Rangers the same powers they wield in Karachi and the army seems hesitant on involving the police in its own operations.

The government still looks to the CTD and Punjab Police to carry out raids in Punjab. The civil-military cooperation that has been seen since the beginning of Zarb-e-Azb does not seem as cooperative as it once was.

The army on its part probably sees the police as an ineffective force, and its inability to counter extremism belies a deep intrenchment of the same ideology within its own ranks. This view is not altogether far from the truth. The government on its part, is completely undermining the objective of eradicating extremist ideology. When it starts providing carte blanche to protesters that demand that Mumtaz Qadri should be declared a martyr, we know something has gone horribly wrong. The Punjab operation is revealing the government’s weaknesses in the way everybody already expected. The army’s decision to conduct an operation went against what the government was looking to do. Punjab is still rests firmly in the grip of PML-N and it does not look ready to permit any outside influence. However, the public grows weary with the government’s duplicity. If it says that it has espoused a no-tolerance policy for all forms of militancy and extremism, it is time to put its weight behind the promises made.