Joint operation between law enforcement agencies, military follows Lahore Easter bombing.
The Pakistan military in coordination with law enforcement agencies launched a new offensive in southern Punjab, officials announced Wednesday, less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed more than 70 people in Lahore.
“Coordinated operations are underway against terrorists and hardened criminals,” read a military statement. The statement also included images of military helicopters hovering over the plains of Punjab and paramilitary troops loading ammunition into trucks and preparing for an operation.
The offensive comes after a Taliban suicide bomber killed 73 people in a popular Lahore park on Easter day. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the Taliban faction that carried out the bombing, said Christians were the target of the attack.
The incident illuminated festering extremism in Punjab, the home province of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and provincial authorities said they would launch a crackdown against militant groups in the province long considered a bastion of the establishment.
Christians make up an estimated 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people and have long faced discrimination. Twin suicide attacks against churches in Lahore killed 17 people in March last year, sparking two days of rioting by thousands of Christians.
The country is still scarred by a Taliban assault on a Peshawar school in 2014 that killed 150 people, mostly children. A military operation targeting insurgents was stepped up in response. Last year the death toll from militant attacks was the lowest since the Pakistani Taliban was formed in 2007.