The need for an operation in the Punjab has never been greater. The Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada was killed along with dozens of others in a suicide blast at his political office in Shadi Khan, near Attock. Police have claimed that the blast appeared to be a large bomb.

The preliminary report which is presented to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, by law enforcement agencies and Punjab IG Mushtaq Sukhera, suggests that Khanzada was attacked in retaliation for the killing of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) chief Malik Ishaq. He had always been a strong advocate for curbing sectarian violence through eliminating terrorists and an operation was being carried out against the LeJ in Attock. Khanzada had been receiving death threats and it seems he was on the right track in his investigations.

If the government needed to a clear reason to go after the LeJ, it doesn’t get clearer than this. This is an attack against the State. There is no excuse to let the violent group off the hook because it is now leaderless. Shuja Khanzada was killed in retaliation of Malik Ishaq’s killing and was known for his zero-tolerance anti-terrorist stance. The government and intelligence agencies know the LeJ structure well, and they must dismantle it. These groups have been allowed to operate with impunity. The state only wakes up when it is too late, when people are already buried under rubble. How long before other tolerated groups like the Jamat ud Daawa and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat engage in similar attacks?

In the past year Pakistani authorities have cracked down hard on the myriad insurgent groups that have plagued the country for a decade, and retaliation by them has come with a heavy price. With the success of Zarb-e-Azb, revenge attacks have now been proven to be the next form of attack launched by the enemy.

The problem is that there has been no real action taken against terrorism in the Punjab. The militants here are the highest in number, but deals with the politically powerful had kept them somewhat under control. One of the PML-N’s own is now dead along with 13 others. Khanzada was one of the few known to be uncorrupt and honest. Previous governments have shied away from tackling violent groups such as the LeJ. If the PMLN and the army have now chosen to take them on, may they have the strength to take the battle to its logical end. The blood of those who have laid down their lives for the cause, demands that it be so.