Taliban ‘openly raising funds’ in Punjab: BBC
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani intelligence report says militants are publicly raising funds in the Punjab province, the BBC has learned.
The disclosure comes amid reports of an increased Taliban presence in this politically-important province. The report says at least 17 banned militant groups are operating in the province under different names. They are raising donations through religious gatherings, certificate award ceremonies and meetings held in the name of social welfare, it says. In recent years, militants have carried out dozens of attacks against the civil and military targets in the Punjab.
Officials blame these attacks mostly on the so-called “Punjabi Taliban” affiliated with the anti-Pakistan Taliban groups based in the country’s north-western tribal areas. A source in the interior ministry told the BBC that the latest intelligence report names at least 17 proscribed organisations that were raising funds in the Punjab.
Militants’ activity in the Punjab has recently been more evident. Their activities are mostly in Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal, Pind Dadan Khan, Mandi Bahauddin, Kharian, Faisalabad and Gujranwala.
The report identifies the most active among these groups as the Ghazi Force, named after a top cleric of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, who was killed during a siege of the mosque by security forces in 2007.
It says the group has close working relations with the TehrikÃ±e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The report reveals that members of the Ghazi Force have carried out several attacks against government targets in the Punjab with the support of the Taliban.
It says the militants are spreading out across the Punjab and other areas of the country because of the military operations targeting their bases in the tribal areas. The groups are also trying to set up networks in Sindh, it says. The report stresses that the intelligence wing of the police, the Special Branch, needs to be properly equipped to deal with the growing menace.
The provinces of Punjab and Sindh have earmarked a combined amount of Rs 80 billion ($941m) in the current budget to improve salaries of policemen and equip them with modern technology.
Source: The News