LAHORE - Police officer Haider Ashraf keeps his force on their toes in a metropolis that received over 500 security threats by militants since January.

Frequent security sweeps, physical search and snap-checking at police pickets, and surprise raids at residential accommodations are now cops’ everyday job in Lahore.

Ashraf who leads the Lahore’s operations police yesterday told The Nation that the city “received over 540 security threats this year”. Leading government installations, important personalities, worship places, and religious gatherings were among the possible targets of militants.

Authorities heightened alert across the Punjab province after some terror suspects told investigators that senior government officers were also on the hit list of militants.

“Operation Zarb-e-Azab brought a fundamental shift in the policing. Now security issue dominates crime and law and order,” the DIG said.

Haider Ashraf himself narrowly survived a suicide attack outside Police Lines Qila Gujjar Sigh early this year. Jamaatul Ahrar, an offshoot of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. Except the single suicidal strike outside the police headquarters in February, no other terror attack was reported in Lahore this year.

The DIG says the police have to respond to “at least ten law and order situations” everyday in Lahore. Cops are guarding schoolchildren, important persons, congregations, sensitive buildings, and important roads. “The provincial government is building a separate security division since the Punjab police in general and Lahore police in particular are facing acute shortage of staff.”

According to one proposal, authorities may charge a reasonable fee from the personalities who need police security. And those who can’t afford, the police will provide them guards but only if they are facing serious threats.

Responding to a question, the officer said that the government must help police department introduce initiatives for the welfare of cops, especially foot constables.

“Lahore policemen need a hospital for their families and a school for the children of policemen. The department requires more staff, technology, transport, latest vehicles, and weapons to fight militants and criminals.”

When asked how the police are planning to catch at least 17,000 proclaimed offenders who are at large in Lahore, Ashraf said that a massive clampdown is underway across the city to nab hardened criminals, militants, and proclaimed offenders. “The ongoing search operations, surprise raids, and checking at police pickets are helping police arrest POs, and suspected elements,” he told The Nation.

Earlier, DIG Haider Ashraf chaired a meeting of field officers of Sadar Police Division and expressed his satisfaction over the law and order situation in the metropolis. The officers were directed to finalise security plan for two forthcoming religious congregations. Thousands of police will be deployed across the metropolis to maintain peace and harmony on the eve of Eid Milad-un-Nabi and Christmas.

Ashraf said the security of religious congregations always remain a challenging task for the law enforcement agencies since the country had been battling extremism and terrorism. Lahore police are strictly directed to ensure foolproof security at schools where special ceremonies will take place to remember the sacrifices of Peshawar schoolchildren.

The DIG said that all the beat officers are equipped with android phones in order to monitor their working on regular basis. He said the crime rate dropped drastically since police introduced several initiatives as part of the national action plan this year.