LAHORE- The announcement of outlawed TTP Punjab chief Asmat Ullah Muawiya that they are going to quit militant activities inside Pakistan can result in separation of some of his comrades who still want to continue militancy against the state. However, this will surely help improve the security picture, especially in Punjab.

Muawiya on Saturday announced renouncing armed struggle and pursuing preaching as their major means of struggle for implementation of sharia in the country. The Punjabi Taliban chief also announced that his organisation would start relief activities in the flood-hit areas of Punjab.

Background interviews with the members of state’s leading security services regarding Muawiya’s announcement suggest that Punjab could experience complete calm if all the members, sympathisers and Muawiya-linked sleeper cells, especially the sectarian groups, agree with the new policy of the outlawed outfit that had already separated itself from central Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), vowing allegiance to Afghanistan’s Mulla Umar. They are of the assessment that certain groups and members of Punjabi Taliban can disassociate themselves from militant activities; however, they cannot say anything with surety about the future conduct of this former TTP chapter until their allied groups issue similar announcements and formally surrender to state authorities. They added that Punjabi Taliban had undertaken most of their actions in the tribal region but the sectarian groups linked to it had carried out actions in Punjab too, and history of terrorism in Punjab is deeply linked with sectarianism.

The security elements anticipate that three to four more groups would surrender to the state very soon but they may not announce it like Muawiya because of their local compulsions. A security service member has a bit different view of Muawiya’s announcement, as he thinks that Punjabi Taliban took this decision to save their skin from the ongoing military operation Zarb-i-Azb and he may restart his militant actions whenever they get the infrastructure to run their terror operations. He added that offensive intelligence operations with the follow up operations of special services sections to counter terrorism have crippled the terror infrastructure in North Waziristan.

Security sources said the counter terrorism operations and follow up operations will continue till the elimination of all the terrorists without distinction and without keeping in view who has renounced militancy and who could do the same in the future. “We have been tasked to comb out terrorism and we will do that at any cost,” a security member remarked.

Brig (r) Ghanzanfar, ISI Punjab ex-commander and one of the founding members of anti-terrorism unit (ATU) in Pak Army, when contacted, said: If Muawiya is true to his words then his announcement would impact the morale of the remnants of his outlawed outfit. However, intelligence business requires monitoring of anti-state elements till their death no matter if they renounce militancy or not.

Sharing his experiences as former counter-terror expert and spy, he said: It is certain that intelligence agencies successfully cultivated sympathisers inside outlawed TTP to exploit their internal differences but the Zarb-i-Azb hit compelled many of TTP fighters to cease insurgency in the volatile tribal region. Ghanzanfar added: Key militant commanders like Hafiz Gul Bahadur and others have already separated themselves from those still want to continue terror war against the state.

He said: The hardcore militants like Muawiya should be brought before the court for their crimes to establish the writ of the state. He said: Counter terror operations and their follow ups should continue till the complete elimination of anti-state elements. He added: The comprehensive counter terror strategy led by actionable intelligence has given positive results of Operation Zarb-i-Azb and now the remaining TTP commanders are on the run.