The long-overdue security clean-up of Punjab has finally been given the green signal by the Home Ministry of the province, and the Punjab Rangers look set to take on a prominent role in clamping down on terrorist facilitators and sleeper cells in the province over the next two months. In the first day of the operation, 25 militants were arrested, with arms and ammunition seized in Rajanpur.

This revelation, coming from the government has raised a few eyebrows considering that the PML-N has often pretended that the problem of terrorism does not exist in Punjab. So why the sudden change of heart? Is this a realisation that came about through self-reflection, or is it a more forceful suggestion by other institutions within the country? A question we might never get the answer to, it is important now to focus on what lies ahead, and ensure that these two months count in the eradication of militants in Punjab.

The biggest problem however, when dealing with Punjab, is of which groups to target. The Pakistani state has often stated that it no longer discriminates between good or bad terrorists. But what of all the proscribed organisations that carry out their activities in the province with astonishing regularity? What of the banned outfits that have changed their names and still collect funds as if nothing is amiss? The pervasion of extremist ideology in many areas of the province is an accepted fact.

The ruling party’s assertions of being completely dedicated to the eradication of any and all terrorists will be put through its first real test in the next two months. As the fight against terrorism in the country continues, there have been many instances to suggest that the police forces of the country are not up to the task of policing areas against the threat of terrorism using their resources alone.

The botched siege attempts of Chotu gang’s hideout in April this year pointed to glaring inadequacies in the province’s internal security mechanism. There are questions continuously raised against the efficacy of the Punjab Police’s Counter Terrorism Department as well. With the army bringing the Torkham border under control through Khyber III, it is important that mainland areas are also flushed out, expelling any militants still biding their time. Punjab is the perfect place to start rooting them out, given that many areas in the province have sympathy for the militants’ cause, due to entrenched extremism in many places. The time has come for the country’s most populous province to rid itself of any vestiges of terrorist thought, and we can only hope that the provincial government facilitates the monumental task the Rangers have at hand.