An operation has been launched against militants in all over Punjab, Waqt News reported.

The operation has been initiated following the order of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif. The decision to launch the operation in Punjab was taken after a high level military meeting at GHQ.

According to the latest reports the house of Mohammad Yousaf, the suicide bomber in yesterday's Lahote attack, in Muzafargarh has been surrounded by security agencies. Two-kilometer area around the house been sealed by police. Around 400 security personnel have been called to Muzaffargarh.

Sources confirm that intelligence agencies, Rangers and army conducted five operations last night. “The operation has been launched in Multan, Faisalabad and Sialkot. It will be expanded with time,” sources revealed. A number of militants and their facilitators have been arrested in the operations.

Waqt News reveals that militants have been arrested from Nandipur near Gujranwala and Sialkot bypass. Meanwhile, two militants have been arrested with heavy weapons from Laki Marwat Road, Sargodha, along with heavy weapons. Reports claim that they were trying to enter Punjab.

Furthermore, according to Waqt News reports hideouts of Chhotu Gang and and other banned miltant organizations have been raided.

According to Reuters, the authorities are hunting breakaway Taliban militants who once declared loyalty to ISIS after the group claimed responsibility for last night’s Easter suicide bomb targeting Christians that killed 72 people.

The attack in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in the Iqbal Town area of Lahore, the powerbase of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, killed mostly women and children as families enjoyed the Easter weekend outing.

Pakistan is a majority-Muslim state but has a Christian population of more than 2 million.

Yesterday’s suicide bombing was the deadliest attack in Pakistan since the December 2014 APS massacre, which killed 134 schoolchildren prompting a government crackdown on Islamist militancy, and the launch of the National Action Plan (NAP).

"We must bring the killers of our innocent brothers, sisters and children to justice and will never allow these savage inhumans to over-run our life and liberty," military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in a post on Twitter.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan says terrorists should be chased and killed, Waqt News reported. He says they should be hunted in all provinces. “Operation should be started without any discrimination around the country,” he said. 

While addressing the media at Jinnah Hospital, Khan further added that another task is to de-politicize the police. “There should be no political interference in police matters,” he said. “The police elite force, which is on duty with VIPs should be allocated to their real duties. 

Khan said police officials have given countless sacrifices on duty.  “A Karachi-like Rangers operation should be conducted in Punjab," he said. “In KP, we have requested for Rangers allocation on Pak-Afghan border."

Reuters further adds:

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack late on Sunday night, and issued a direct challenge to the government. "The target was Christians," said a faction spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. "We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore."

Lahore, markets, schools and courts were closed on Monday as the city mourned.

Rescue services spokeswoman Deeba Shahnaz said at least 70 people were killed and about 340 were wounded, with 25 in serious condition.

The group has claimed responsibility for several big attacks after it split with the main Pakistani Taliban in 2014.

It declared allegiance to the Islamic State but later said it was rejoining the Pakistani Taliban insurgency.

TARGETS

Pakistan has been plagued by militant violence for the last 15 years, since it joined a U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy after the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

While the army, police, government and Western interests have been the prime targets of the Pakistani Taliban and their allies, Christians and other religious minorities have also attacked.

Nearly 80 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a church in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2013.

The security forces have killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants under the crackdown launched after the 2014 Peshawar school massacre.

Militant violence had eased but they retain the ability to launch devastating attacks.

Pakistan's security agencies have long been accused of nurturing militants to use for help in pursuing security objectives in Afghanistan and against old rival India.

But some, like the Pakistani Taliban, have turned against the state. They are fighting to topple the government and install a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Sharif's opponents have accused him of tolerating militancy in return for peace in his province, a charge he strongly denies.

Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of hard-line Muslim activists clashed with police in the capital, Islamabad, in a protest over the execution of a man they consider a hero for assassinating a governor over his criticism of harsh blasphemy laws.

Bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri Mumtaz shot dead Punjab governor Salman Taseer in 2011. Taseer, a prominent liberal politician, had spoken in support of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the law that mandates capital punishment for insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. Qadri was executed last month.

There was no indication of a connection between the protest in Islamabad and the bomb in Lahore.

According to analysts the operation in Punjab has been on the cards for quite a long time and has been triggered by yesterday’s suicide attack.  Rangers have been active in Karachi and have arrested and taken down numerous militants. The military operation Zarb-e-Azb in the northwest of Pakistan is also believed to have significantly reduced militancy. This has resulted in the civil society and political parties demanding a military operation all over Punjab as well.