LAHORE - Punjab government will send back all Afghan nationals who are staying illegally in the province and deport the foreign students in religious seminaries overstaying their visas, as part of national action plan on counterterrorism.

The provincial government has also referred to the federal government 43 terrorism-related cases - of which 10 have been finalised - for their hearing by the special military courts, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told a press conference here on Wednesday.

A strong pressure came from the European Union for staying execution of the terror convicts but Pakistan did not succumb to that and went on putting some high profile terrorists to gallows.

CM Shahbaz said hundreds of accused named under Fourth Schedule have been taken into custody and a state-of-the-art mechanism has been devised to monitor their movement and the activity. He said his government has zero tolerance for those issuing ‘fatwa-e-kufr’ (dictums of infidelity) against each other.

The CM said under the National Action Plan (NAP), civil and the military leadership along with the whole nation have lined up with a determination to deal sternly with the terrorists, their supporters and facilitators.

He said an IT-based survey to comb the illegally staying Afghan nationals is underway for sending them back home. A decision has also been taken to deport the foreign students whose visa limit has expired but they are still staying in ‘deeni madaris’ (religious seminaries).

Shabaz said as many as 1,000 biometric machines are being imported to help detect the suspects in combing operation and modern scanners are also been employed for checking of the vehicles. He said every step will be taken to eliminate terrorism, sectarianism and extremism which pose biggest threat to national security.

He said that the law regarding wall-chalking, delivering of provocative speeches, misuse of loudspeaker and publication and distribution of hate material is being strictly implemented by Punjab government while amendments have been made in the laws for making sentences more stringent.

The CM said Provincial Apex Committee is working actively and immediate and effective measures are being taken. He said that steps are also being taken to make additional subjects of tolerance, restraint, peace, love and sacrifice part of syllabus of schools, universities and seminaries.

He said that a fully trained Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) has been set up in the province and its first batch has passed out. He said that modern equipment and helicopters will also be provided to this Force, which comprises educated youth who have been selected on merit. He said that second batch of CTF will pass out in April and the third in August.

The chief minister said that Rapid Response Force has also been established in the province and it is being imparted training with the cooperation of Army and the help of friendly countries. He said that most modern forensic lab of South Asia is operating in Lahore and its branches are being established in nine divisions of the province.

Shahbaz said that the war against terrorism can be won only through an effective intelligence system; therefore, intelligence wing is being strengthened. He said that digital mapping of all seminaries is also being carried out in the province for effective monitoring.

He said that life and property of the masses and elimination of terrorism is top priority of the government and a sum of billions of rupees is being spent for this purpose. He said Punjab government is meeting expenses being incurred on the elimination of terrorism from its own resources.

The CM said that indiscriminate action is being taken against all terrorists by removing the confusion of good and bad terrorists and political, military and religious leadership is united in this regard. He said if we lost this chance and did not play our role for elimination of terrorism, Pakistan will never be able to stand on its feet.

Expressing the hope that time will come when terrorism will be eliminated and the country will become a haven of peace, CM Shahbaz said that besides bullet, education, health, justice and economic activities will have to be promoted and poverty and unemployment eliminated for the purpose.

He said they have given laptops to hundreds of thousands of students on merit in Punjab. A Safe City Project has been launched in Lahore which will be completed by December, while the scope of this project is being extended to five big cities of Punjab, he added.

The CM said that work on energy projects is being carried out speedily for overcoming energy crisis. He said that friendly countries are happy over discovery of mineral reserves while enemies are perturbed as they do not want progress of the country. He said they eliminated corruption from mineral reserve project of Chiniot Rajwa and brought it to the public eye.

Referring to the role of media in the war against terrorism, Shahbaz Sharif said that media has to play a responsible role in this regard. He said that guidance and encouragement of media is needed. Criticism should be positive, he stressed. Unfortunately the believers of one Allah, one Prophet (SAW) and one Book have divided into groups, and the media has to make efforts for uniting the nation, he added.

Replying to a question about foreign students in seminaries, he said complete survey of seminaries is being conducted and it has been revealed that there are about 400 such students whose visa has expired. A letter has been written to federal government and on its reply they will be deported from Punjab.

To another question, Shahbaz said that majority of seminaries is promoting religious education but admitted that some institutions may have a role in the promotion of extremism. He said that “terrorism is the name of a mindset and we have to eliminate this mindset”. About executions, he said European Union has put pressure on the subject but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not accept this pressure as the situation in European countries is different from Pakistan.