1,300 suspected militants arrested in Pakistan's Punjab province

Lahore: Police on Friday said that about 1,300 suspected militants were arrested in a sweep of hideouts in Pakistan's largest province of Punjab. The roughly two-week operation comes despite the provincial law minister's defence of some groups designated as terrorist organisations and banned by Pakistan but resurrected under new names. Rana Sanaullah also embraced some sectarian leaders whose groups have been accused of fomenting violence against minority Islamic sects, raising questions about his commitment to ridding Punjab of militants.

 1,300 suspected militants arrested in Pakistans Punjab province

Representational image

Two police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations, said another 36 militants died in shootouts with police and in paramilitary operations since the sweep began last month. In an interview with The Associated Press, however, Sanaullah questioned the label of terrorist for anti-Indian militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has resurfaced as Jamaat-ud-Daawa.

Last month, Pakistan placed Hafiz Saeed, a declared terrorist with a US-imposed USD 10 million bounty on his head, under house arrest, yet Sanaullah questioned allegations against Saeed, who is connected mostly to militant attacks in Kashmir.

"They are related to Kashmir. They feel Indian brutality in Kashmir is unacceptable," he said of Saeed and his followers, adding that Pakistan's courts have twice freed Saeed saying there was no evidence of his involvement in terrorism activities. Saeed is among India's most wanted and is accused of masterminding attacks inside India and Kashmir. "Why is the world not concerned about India's violence in Kashmir?" Sanaullah asked. "There is no evidence of Saeed's involved in state terrorism."

In an interview, Saeed's spokesman Yahya Mujahed denied Saeed's affiliation with the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba. Analysts and critics say the Punjab provincial government is sheltering sectarian and jihadi groups headquartered in its most populous province, while using the crackdown to target ethnic Pashtuns from tribal regions that border Afghanistan.

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Updated Date: Mar 03, 2017 21:41:34 IST