Army launches combing operations in Quetta

QUETTA / ISLAMABAD: The army on Wednesday launched ‘combing operations’ in the suburbs of Quetta three days after a suicide bombing killed 74 people, mostly lawyers, at the city’s Civil Hospital, the military’s media wing said on Wednesday.

The Inter-Services Public Relations did not provide details of the ‘combing operations’ which were ordered by army chief General Raheel Sharif during a high-level security meeting in Quetta on Monday.

A senior security official told The Express Tribune that special teams, led by the army, will conduct raids in the suburbs of Quetta against terrorists, their facilitators and sympathisers. The special teams will also include personnel from other law enforcement agencies, added the official, who requested not to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media on the subject.

The army chief said terrorist groups were shifting focus to Balochistan after they were routed from the tribal areas. On Tuesday, Gen Raheel said the armed forces would not allow anyone to reverse the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

The official indicated intensification of targeted as well as combing operations against terrorists not only in Quetta but also across the country.

Earlier Wednesday, law enforcers rounded up nearly two dozen suspects in raids in different neighbourhoods of Quetta. “Some of the 20 suspects have links with banned groups,” a police official told The Express Tribune, adding, “We are interrogating them for any possible link to Monday’s bombing.”

Investigators have sent blood samples and flesh of the bomber to a forensic laboratory in Lahore to ascertain his identity.

The city, meanwhile, remained in a state of mourning for the third consecutive day as trade and business activities remained suspended, with little vehicular traffic on the roads. Courts wore a deserted look as lawyers continued to boycott proceedings.

Dozens of lawyers from across the country arrived in the capital to express solidarity with the bereaved families and offered sympathies to the legal fraternity in Balochistan. “We have lost the whole leadership,” said Attaullah Langov, a former secretary of the Balochistan Bar Association. The loss is a hole “that cannot be filled”, he told AFP.

Popular senior lawyer Abdul Rasheed Khokhar, who was close friends with many in the Lawyers Movement against former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, was also among the blast victims. “The whole city is gloomy over the loss of almost the entire leadership of the legal community in the province,” said his younger brother Abdul Hameed.

Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and Commander Southern Command Lt-Gen Aamer Riaz visited the families of Aaj TV cameraman Shahzad Ahmed and DawnNews cameraman Mehmood Khan to offer condolences. Shezad and Khan were the first to reach the Civil Hospital after Kasi’s killing.

“It’s time that politicians, media persons, lawyers and civil society maintained unity in their ranks to foil the designs of terrorists,” Zehri said, adding, “We need unity to fight our enemy.”

He also announced government jobs for the wife and brother of Shahzad, adding that his administration would bear all expenses incurred on the education of the slain cameraman’s children.

Lt-Gen Aamer Riaz, who gifted one of his uniform badges to the daughter of the slain cameraman, said the Pakistan Army would never forget its martyrs.

Chief Minister Zehri and Lt-Gen Aamer Riaz also presided over a meeting at the Headquarters of the Southern Command to review the security situation in the province in the wake of the Quetta bombing.

Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Chief Secretary Saifullah Chattha, IGP Ahsan Mehboob, IGFC Maj-Gen Sher Afgun and other senior civil and military officials attended the meeting. “The meeting vowed that no stone would be left unturned to strengthen the country’s defence,” the ISPR said, adding that more concrete steps would be taken for bringing peace and prosperity in Balochistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2016. 

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