By Omar Waraich / Islamabad
Bowing to intense public pressure, Pakistan’s largest province has finally moved against some local militant groups. The Punjab government, which had until now preferred to look away, last week ordered a crackdown after a series of vicious terrorist attacks on religious groups branded by the militants as heretics, apostates or infidels. Over 40 people were killed on July 1 in an attack at Lahore’s most famous Sufi shrine, sparking outrage across the country as even moderate Muslims staged armed demonstrations and vowed to tackle the militants themselves if the Punjab government declined to act.
Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and wealthiest province, is home to a toxic mix of sectarian and Kashmir-focused jihadist groups that have operated with state patronage since the 1980s. The province also houses the greatest concentration of hard-line madrasahs that supply young, impressionable recruits to jihadist groups. Some of these groups have been responsible for some of the deadliest terror attacks in Pakistan and also in neighboring India and Afghanistan.
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