LAHORE - A major reshuffle in the Punjab police hierarchy has become talk of the town as the brutal assault on Lahore’s The Mall forced the government to call in paramilitary troopers.

Punjab inspector general of police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera is going to retire in weeks. The new police chief, if given a chance, will make up his own team. Some key posts are lying vacant for the last couple of weeks and many officers are ready for “interviews.”

Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) personnel and civil law enforcement agencies last week launched a full-scale operation to counter terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism from the most populated province.

According to military’s public relations wing, over 600 suspects were arrested in more than 200 they launched the operation codenamed as Radd-ul-Fasaad. A few facilitators of the terror outfit, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, and several Afghan nationals were also among the arrested suspects.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar had asserted responsibility for the terror attack on police officers in Lahore. The suicide attack, during a protest rally, left fifteen people dead including seven police officers.

Despite strict warnings, credible intelligence inputs and heavy police deployment on the leading road, the bomber managed to reach close to a group of officers. There was massive police patrolling in the vicinity when the terrorists were strolling on the footpath on The Mall (as they are seen in CCTV footage). The non-stop police operations could not get the bomber or his facilitator who were staying at a rented accommodation in Lahore for the last couple of months.

In the wake of Lahore blast, the provincial government was all set to order new postings and transfers in the police department but the competent authority was advised that such an action could demoralize the 180,000 strong police.

Police circles say many officers will be transferred from top positions within weeks. The reshuffle is expected within weeks. Punjab police chief, Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera, who recently got inserted a stent from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, has been requested to continue till the date of his retirement.

A source at the central police office claimed that the top police officers would be “reshuffled” following the retirement of the provincial police chief. “The government will also keep in mind the next general elections while considering different names for the top police slots. The officers who feel comfortable and confident while working with other security institutions will be preferred,” a Punjab government official said, during an informal chat.

Several names are under serious consideration important positions in the police department. According to insiders, the names of additional inspector general of police Faisal Shahkaar, Amjad Javed Saleemi, and Captain (retired) Muhammad Amin Wains are being considered for the post of the provincial police officer.

Similarly, there are strong chances that Punjab DIG (Operations) Aamir Zulfikar will be chosen to lead the Lahore police as capital city police officer. Zulfikar has already served in Lahore as DIG (Operations). He is given the credit for cooling down violent mob on Lahore’s The Mall almost a decade ago.

Thousands of protesters had tried to set important buildings on fire while protesting against the blasphemous cartoons when Zulfikar reached to the top of a truck and started addressing the religious activists by using loudspeakers.

The posts of chief traffic officer and SSP (Operations) are also lying vacant since the martyrdom of DIG Ahmed Mobin and SSP Zahid Gondal. Police sources say DIG Raja Riffat, Rai Ijaz, and Rana Faisal are candidates for the post of CTO. Rana Ayyaz Saleem is likely to be posted as Lahore SSP (Operations). 

The provincial and federal governments would prefer seasoned officers for key posts in the police since the government has decided to launch a collective and full-scale operation against the elements involved in terrorism, sectarianism, and extremism.

Rangers, counter terrorism department, and police are conducting joint raids across the province as part of the operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. Also, paramilitary troops last week launched snap-checking at the entry and exit points of the provincial metropolis. Security forces and intelligence agencies are also working with the provincial authorities to make Radd-ul-Fasaad a complete success.

Security experts say “the new policy of collective fight against the mindset” would defiantly yield positive results. The government institutions, agencies, and departments must fight together against the terrorists since terror groups like ISIS, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e-Islam have launched a unified terror campaign in the country

Some experts interviewed for this article called for a long term policy to “counter violent extremism” by introducing reforms in police, education, and social sectors. “The CVE (counter violent extremism) is a subject of wide-range. This can help us eradicate violence and intolerance. Unfortunately, intolerance is growing in our society with every passing day and we have to change this mind set,” according to experts, who preferred their names not be mentioned.

They also said that the joint efforts would also help cut down corruption in government departments. “This will be a decisive fight and the final battle. The final battle against the mind set (terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism) and the final battle against corruption and injustice.”

Some crime and security experts said the anti-terror operation involving paramilitary troops will lead to success if communities are taken on board and corruption is eliminated.

Punjab Rangers yesterday issued a helpline number in context of ongoing Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. “People can directly contact Rangers at 042-99220030, in case they see some suspicious activity or individuals in their surrounding,” an ISPR statement said. Furthermore, masses can contact Rangers on WhatsApp at 0340-8880100. “For online complaints and information the forces can be reached on help@pakistanrangerspunjab.com.

The help-line was launched by Pakistan Army to multiply public participation in the ongoing war against terrorism in urban parts of the province. The Rangers’ raids are underway across the province and the community policing can help unearth the hideouts and sleeper cells of the terrorists in Punjab.