LAHORE - A meeting presided over by Law Minister Raja Basharat  on Tuesday reviewed the law and order situation in view of the growing tensions between the United States and Iran.

The minister directed for special attention to the security of foreign citizens and important installations across the province in view of recent developments in the region.

The meeting also reviewed the January 2 strike by the transporters and the implementation of a plan for the future chapter of such a possible strike.

Alternative places were also identified in light of the High Court decision in relation to the protests on Mall Road and further suggestions were sought from the concerned agencies till the final decision.  The minister directed that concrete measures be taken to prevent the use of blue light on private and unauthorized vehicles. The committee also approved the issuance of budget to re-start the computerization of police stations in Punjab.

Minister for Population Welfare Rao Hashim Dogar, Labor Minister Ansar Majeed, Sports Minister Timur Ahmed Khan, Chief Secretary Punjab Major (R) Azam Salman, IG Punjab Shoaib Dastgir, Additional Chief Secretary Home Momin Agha, Additional IG Special Branch, Additional IG CTD, Commissioner Lahore and other officers were also present at the meeting.

Last week, tensions between the United States and Iran escalated on Friday after a US air strike killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF. The Pentagon confirmed the strike at Baghdad’s international airport, saying it came “at the direction of the president”. Soleimani and al-Muhandis’s deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and are expected to draw severe retaliation from Iran and the forces it backs in the region against Israel and US interests.

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, said “two vehicles were attacked with multiple missiles by US forces” and all 10 passengers, including Soleimani, were “martyred”.

The Quds Force said the dead consisted of five members of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network and five Guards - Brigadier General Hossein Pourjafari, Colonel Shahroud Mozafarinia, Major Hadi Taremi and Captain Vahid Zamanian.

Soleimani acquired celebrity status at home and abroad as the leader of the foreign arm of Iran’s elite forces Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and for his key role in fighting in Syria and Iraq. He survived several assassination attempts against him by Western, Israeli and Arab agencies over the past 20 years.

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to defend his decision to kill Qassem Soleimani, claiming that the Quds Force commander was behind the deaths of “millions of people”, including US citizens and his own Iranian compatriots. Soleimani “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more”, Trump said.

“He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself,” he added.

In his second tweet since the strike, Trump said, “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” His first tweet, just after reports of the attacks surfaced, was an image of a US flag.

Trump also said “Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught!” He added that Soleimani should have “been taken out many years ago”.

Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi said in a statement: “Yesterday’s targeting of a military commander in Iraq’s armed forces near Baghdad international airport is a flagrant breach of sovereignty and violation of international agreements.”

“Iraq must avoid becoming a battlefield or a side in any regional or international conflict,” he said. Halbousi, who as speaker is Iraq’s top Sunni Arab politician, called on the government to take all steps needed to stop such attacks.

The United States urged its citizens to leave Iraq “immediately”, citing “heightened tensions in Iraq and the region”. A State Department statement added that “due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the US Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. US citizens should not approach the Embassy.”

Dozens of US citizens working for foreign oil companies in the southern Iraqi oil city of Basra were leaving the country on Friday, the oil ministry said. The US embassy in Baghdad urged all its citizens to leave Iraq immediately. Iraqi officials said the evacuation would not affect operations, production or exports.

Washington is committed to “de-escalation” after a US air strike in Baghdad killed Qassem Soleimani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. Pompeo said on Twitter that he spoke to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi about the US decision to eliminate Soleimani.

Flags at Iranian embassies abroad were ordered to fly at half-mast and preparations were being made for Soleimani’s body to be transferred to Iran. The date for the funeral has yet to be announced.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for three days of mourning, saying Major General Soleimani’s killing will double the motivation of the resistance against the US and Israel. According to Iranian state television, Khamenei said harsh revenge awaits “criminals” who killed Soleimani.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran and the “free nations of the region” would take revenge on the US for “this gruesome crime”. His death had “redoubled the determination of the nation of Iran and other free nations” to stand up to the US, Rouhani said.

Iran’s top security body convened an emergency meeting. The foreign ministry summoned an official from the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents US interests in Iran, to “strongly protest” the killing, according to ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

The Guards said they and the “resistance front” would “start a new chapter as of today”. “Certainly, the fleeting rejoicing of Americans and Zionists will turn into mourning before too long,” said spokesman Ramezan Sharif.

In a tweet, Foreign Minister Javed Zarif tweeted that “the US act of international terrorism, targeting and assassinating General Soleimani is extremely dangerous and a foolish escalation”. “The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” he added.