LAHORE – After a long lull, gunmen shot dead four police personnel at a picket near Kathala railway crossing in Gujrat district last week. The assailants, equipped with sophisticated weapons and riding two motorcycles, opened straight fire and escaped after killing three police constables and one head constable at the picket.

The deadly attack not only put the police hierarchy on high-alert, but also sent a strong message to the provincial authorities that the Punjab police are once again the target of terrorists. It is, however, not still clear who carried out the attack — some gangsters or a militant group?

Earlier, with the exception of one terror attack on a Chehlum procession in the Punjab which left 21 people dead and injured 50 others, the overall security situation remained peaceful across the province this year. Police sources believe that the gun attack on policemen in Gujrat could be the work of terrorists as the police experts have begun investigations to unearth those responsible for this deadly assault.

The critics of the PML-N led government in Punjab say that the provincial authorities are reluctant to launch operation against the terror outfits. Some of them claim that the PML-N also keep close contacts with the militant outfits in order to ensure peace in the Punjab.

But the situation on ground is altogether different, security analysts believe. They say that the Punjab police are fighting extremism and militancy since the country joined the global war on terror as frontline ally. Apart from thousands of civilians, more than 350 policemen have been killed in terror attacks in the Punjab since 2006.

Last week, IG Haji Habibur Rehman gave a two-pronged strategy to the police force. He said that the police would have to fight against crime and terrorism — together. The IG also directed the police officers serving in the Southern Punjab to step up efforts to wipe out sectarianism from the province. The officers were also directed to deeply monitor the activities of banned outfits in order to ensure peace and harmony among the people.

College Principal: The Gujrat police have registered a case against the principal of a girls’ college for detaining a student in her office for two days. Sadia Khan, a student of Pind Dadan Khan Government Girls Degree College, alleged that Principal Raheela Chandni had been forcing her to involve in immoral activities.

Sources at Provincial Police Headquarters say that the IGP Muhammad Habib-ur-Rehman took serious notice of the incident and directed the District Police Officer (DPO) Gujrat not to accept any kind of pressure and ensure justice in this case at all costs. The police have registered the case against Principal Raheela Chandni and her daughter Anam under sections 342 and 34 of the PPC.

Meanwhile, crime rate registered alarming increase in the Punjab capital last week. Dacoits shot dead two people including a woman and wounded over a dozen others on offering resistance during robbery attempts here in the City.

According to the police sources, armed bandits looted more than 30 houses situated in different parts of the City during the last seven days and fled away after collecting cash, gold ornaments and other valuables worth Rs 21.5 million. At least 45 motorcycles and 29 cars were either snatched or stolen away from different parts of the City during the same period.

Police sources say that as many as 200 people were also deprived of their belongings including cash and mobile phones during armed robberies which took place on City roads last week.

Fighting crime and terrorism together is a tough job here in this crime – prone and militancy-infested province. The police are directed to combat terrorism, sectarianism, and militancy; and also eliminate kidnappings for ransom; house robberies and highways dacoities. IG Habibur Rehman should open two parallel fronts to achieve his goals: one, the Counter-Terrorism Department of the police must be upgraded and experienced officers should be posted in this department; two, the Investigation Wing of the police should be directed to apply modern techniques to counter new crime patterns. The most modern forensic lab of South Asia in the City could also help police curb crimes.