DERA GHAZI KHAN: Rajanpur may be the first stopover of the Taliban in Punjab if the activities of a group of robbers-turned-preachers in the riverside of the district are to be taken into account.
Dawn learnt the riverside of the district has long been ruled by Chhoto Bakrani, Ayuba Lathani, Pehlwan, Pat and Rana gangs where these gangsters have made their hideouts. The area is a no-go for both the police and the public.
In 2007, Maulvi Ismaeel, local cleric, convinced 122 gangsters operating in the area to surrender their arms before police in return for immunity from prosecution. After surrendering, these criminals went for preaching missions along with Maulvi Ismaeel.
At present, these criminals-turned-preachers have started their criminal activities under the disguise of the local Taliban. A senior police officer told Dawn that that there was need for a police operation in the riversides of Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur to cleanse the area of these miscreants who are only 30 in number. The police officer said there should be two police posts in the Kacha area of Rajanpur.
Rajanpur DPO Shahid said a major operation in the area was under consideration.
Also, the recent developments taken place in Dera Ghazi Khan have put the district in limelight. Otherwise a calm and peaceful district, the area was rocked by a suicide attack on a religious gathering in the Dera Ghazi Khan city on Feb 5 this year. Later on, police remarkably traced the mastermind of the blast and arrested Qari Ismaeel and his accomplices Mustafa Qaisrani and Waqas.
Law enforcements agencies picked up several suspects in Dera Ghazi Khan after the terrorist attacks on the Manwan police training centre and the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. Teenage Zubair, alias Naik Mohammed, and seven others linked with the Lahore attacks were arrested in April. In May, the foreign media reported about the alleged presence of militants in Choti Zaireen and Shadan Lund.
In July, the district police seized a heavy cache of weapons from Shadan Lund, which were brought to the district from restive Waziristan. Alleged militant Abdullah, alias Shani, was shot dead in the operation while police arrested Musa, Amanullah, Manzoor, Kaleem and Bashir in a shootout.
In September, police arrested six teenagers in Choti Zaireen allegedly trained in militancy in Waziristan.
District Police Officer Dr Rizwan says the developments point to the vigilance of police which are ready to combat the terror threat. He said there were no training centres or hideouts here though Dera Ghazi Khan was a neighboring district to South Waziristan.
Sources told Dawn the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had links with Punjabi members of the banned Jaish-i-Muhammad and the Lashkar-i-Taiba and through these miscreants the TTP carried terrorist attacks in Punjab. They said Mehsood and Wazir tribes were not able to strike in the cities of Punjab on their own.
Sources say the LT and JM militants are not more than 30 in number but they are trained and equipped with unconventional weapons which make them a fierce enemy. (Dawn)