LAHORE – Since 2007, the Punjab province has witnessed some of the worst incidents of bombings with the militant outfits striking multiple targets – leading hotels, headquarters of the security establishment and even worship places to public gatherings.

The more brazenly the terrorists hit the country, the more rapidly the attacks brought paradigm shift in the security system. The synchronised terror strikes in densely populated areas particularly in big cities put the law enforcing agencies on the defensive side. Since the country’s security forces were fighting against the guerrilla or hidden enemy, it helped terrorists remain on the attacking front. Thus, the terrorists carried out suicide bombings, gun and bomb attacks, and also rammed explosive-laden vehicles into key government installations.

Terrorism emerged as the major focus of the law enforcing agencies while most of the police were deployed to guard VVIPs, government installations, important buildings, and even the police headquarters. The top cops confined themselves to the fortified offices while the public was denied access to these highly-guarded buildings.

According to officials, the surge in terrorist violence started in 2006 and reached its apex in 2009, the year Pakistan Army launched Swat and South Waziristan operations. The year 2010 had proved to be less bloody with little over 2,000 causalities excluding those of terrorist as against over 3,000 reported in 2009. The number of bomb blasts had also decreased from about 500 in 2009 to about 450 in 2010. Terrorism plummeted sharply in 2011 particularly in the Punjab, the largest province with a few terror attacks. This year, with the exception of one terror attack on Chehlum procession in Punjab which left 21 people dead and injured 50 others, the overall security situation in the province remains peaceful. Peace and clam also prevailed in Islamabad and Azad Kashmir, thanks to the security forces for launching massive and sophisticated operations in insurgency-infested areas to flush out militancy from the poverty-hit country.

After the considerable drop in terror attacks, the police also heaved a sigh of relief and are now focusing on eliminating other crimes. Efforts are also underway to provide justice to the people at grass root level. Last week, the Inspector General of Police Haji Habibur Rehman ordered reopening of “Open Courts” all over the province and directed the officers to hold open courts on daily basis in order to redress the grievances of the public.

Insiders say that the IGP issued the orders in this regard on the directives of the Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif. The Regional Police Officers, City Police Officers and District Police Officers are holding open courts on daily basis across the province. On the directions of the Provincial Police Chief, all RPOs, CPOs and DPOs are bound to hold open courts for two hours in their offices from 10 am to 12 noon on daily basis.

IGP Muhammad Habib-ur-Rehman is himself doing the same exercise at Provincial Police Headquarters. The IGP has also directed the Field Police officers that open courts must be ensured as per guidance because such exercise help police build confidence and also bridge gap between the public and police.  Security experts say that the exercise of Open Courts indicates two major and positive changes in the policing. First, it suggests that the police are no more under serious terror threat in the province like the previous years. Secondly, it shows that Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has assigned the police their basic responsibility — controlling crimes and ensuring justice to people. However, a few special programmes are also underway to train the police and Elite Force to counter terrorism on the orders of the Chief Minister. A team of Turkish police officers is also actively training the officers and Jawans of the Punjab police here at Police Training Centers in order to improve their professional skills to counter heinous crime and terrorism.

The Chief Minister and the IGP should also pay surprise visits to police stations situated in far-flung areas to understand and witness the ground realities.