ISLAMABAD - The head of Punjab Counter Terrorism Department Wednesday said that three militant organisations, including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan-Fazalullah Group, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, are posing a serious threat to the province.

Addressing a panel discussion at the Islamabad International Counter Terrorism Forum (IICTF)-2018, Additional Inspector General (AIG) of Police and head of Punjab CTD Rai Tahir told the audience that these three militant organisations had become a major challenge for the law enforcement and the CTD in Punjab. The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is hosting the first ever three-day International Counter Terrorism Forum.

With regard to the threat posed to Punjab by these militant organisations, he said the TTP-Fazalullah Group was at the top as it had been found involved in at least last three terrorist incidents in the province. “Then second is Al-Qaeda and third one is Daesh or IS,” he said.

He also said that Punjab was facing the threat of blowback of those militants who had been fighting in Syria and now returned to Afghanistan. “Al-Qaeda had a link with TTP-Fazalullah,” he said adding they had some information that some members of TTP-Fazalullah had met with Al-Qaeda militants in the camps of Afghanistan where the later had convinced the former to carry out attacks in Pakistan on its behalf.

Responding to question at the end of the panel discussion titled “Responding to extremism and terrorism through effective policies and economic development”, Punjab CTD head said that security paradigm of the country took a new turn after the Peshawar’s Army Public School terrorist attack in 2014 and the whole nation including the law enforcement became united against the menace of terrorism. He said that Punjab had become a hub of banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), an offshoot of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) because of the rise of sectarian violence in 1990’s. “The entire leadership of LeJ had either been put behind the bars or eliminated through police operations,” he said. “Punjab CTD in connivance with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has made a remarkable job to end terrorism,” he said adding that the CTD was also working effectively with the other intelligence agencies. “We have got space back from terrorists in Punjab,” he said.

Rai Tahir said that since 2014 after APS carnage, more than 2,000 terrorists had been put behind the bars and the conviction rate in Punjab had increased from 42 per cent in 2015 to 72 per cent in 2017 due to efforts of CTD and provincial prosecution department. “For the first time, Punjab has got registered 103 cases of terror financing and out of these, convictions had been done in 39 cases,” he added. He said that Punjab CTD had also identified 1,600 websites containing hate material and a complaint had been launched with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and out of these, 900 had been blocked.

Mubarak Zeb, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) of CTD Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told the audience that a number of militant groups operating from Afghanistan had been found involved in terrorist activities in the province. He said that the mastermind and facilitators of terrorist attack on the Peshawar’s Directorate of Agriculture Institution had been traced out and most of them had been nabbed.

“The police only got a receipt of purchase of battery bearing the name of Sohail from a rickshaw that was used in the attack and after scrutiny of Facebook accounts with the name of Sohail residing in the area of Peshawar, the police succeeded to arrest him,” he said.

He added the arrest of Sohail led to the arrest of all other masterminds, perpetrators and facilitators of the attack. He said that the facilitators of the attack were also running a ring of kidnappers.

Earlier, National Security Advisor Lt General (Retd) Nasir Khan Janjua, while addressing the 2nd day’s plenary session of IICFT-2018, said that besides many sacrifices and contributions, unfortunately Pakistan was still accused of being supporting Taliban and Haqqanis.

He stressed that Pakistan was being wrongly accused of playing a double game. He said that US accused Pakistan of supporting Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network and these militant groups accused them of supporting “infidel US”. He implicitly said that if Pakistan had some influence over Afghan Taliban then it might had succeeded to stop terrorist attacks of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan inside its territory as Afghan Taliban had also influence over the TTP. He said Taliban carried out attacks on Pakistan in reaction to becoming ally of the United States.

The NSA told the audience that terrorism required international and global response as it could not be fought individually or a state or group of countries.

"Despite losing children, senior leadership and thousands innocent people in war against terrorism, our resilient is intact," he said. He said that Pak-Afghan border was one of the most difficult areas of the world having height, at one point, is 24 thousand feet. “Let the international community come and show how to fight in this difficult terrain,” he said.

He said unfortunately the US and its allied forces abandoned Afghanistan after the collapse of former Soviet Union (USSR) resulting in creation of vacuum. Later the vacuum was filled by radical groups which caused 9/11, he added.

Janjua said Pakistani leadership devised the National Action Plan (NAP) to tackle the menace of terrorism, adding all the provinces and other stakeholders contributed well and stood like a rock. He said various operations including Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasaad were launched to get the required results and now Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and others areas had fully been cleared from terrorists.

He said Karachi operation had also normalised life in the port city. He said that Pakistani flags were burnt in Balochistan and they were facing 5th insurgency in the province. We adopted the policy of love instead of force and now Balochistan was re-sounding with slogans of “long live Pakistan”, he said.

Former Senator Afrasiab Khattak while speaking on the occasion said that in 1980, the West had cleared agenda to defeat communism and it radicalised the society. He said Pakistan had showed strength and perseverance of its people through political leadership who stood united in dealing with menace of terrorism. He said it was a high time to look forward to cooperation for big and small powers. He said Chinese were very serious for peace and their goodwill should be used.