The report about the arrest from South Punjab of seven militants who wanted to blow up the Prime Ministers camp office in Multan once again underlines the urgent need to cleanse the region from terrorists. The issue has come under focus several times during the current year. It would be too dangerous to ignore the issue on account of the rivalry between the federal and Punjab governments. As things stand, this is what one sees happening. The matter of Punjabi Taliban was raised by the Interior Minister early this year when he hinted at military action in South Punjab to deal with the issue. While the term was already being widely used in the tribal areas as well as by the international media, the statement elicited a strong reaction from the Punjab administration which denied the existence of any group called Punjabi Taliban and maintained the term was aimed at maligning the province and its administration. Further controversy was generated when the PPP accused a Punjab government minister of providing official protocol to the chief of an extremist group during a by-election campaign in Jhang. The PML-N in turn accused Punjab Governor of allowing a top official of the same network to speak at an election campaign addressed by him in another town in South Punjab.
Over the last few years, two new developments have taken place among terrorist groups. First, a new generation of terrorists has entered the field leading to divisions and sub-divisions in the parent organizations like Masud Azhars Jaish-e-Muhammad and Haq Nawazs Sipah-e-Sahaba, the first created in South Punjab and the other in a district bordering the region. Second, military operations in Swat, South Waziristan and other agencies forced militants from these groups to return to their home ground to launch terrorist attacks. This explains the phenomenal increase in high profile terrorist attacks in the province and the discovery of explosives dumps in Lahore, Dera Ghazi Khan and Vehari.
While there is a need to recognize the presence of Punjabi Taliban, it would be unrealistic to demand the launching of a military action in Punjab as terrorists control no area anywhere in the province. What is badly required, however, is a better cooperation between the intelligence agencies and the revival of the practically defunct CID system. What is further required is to provide police with better communication system and modern gadgetry as well as training for its use.