LAHORE - The Opposition in the Punjab Assembly yesterday grilled the government for initiating an operation against the terrorists and criminals in the Katcha area of South Punjab after a delay of eight good years.

The Opposition leader Mian Mahmudur Rashid managed to get his motion on Katcha operation put before the House for debate out of turn after he convinced the Chair Deputy Speaker Sher Ali Gorchani as to how serious was the matter and what havoc the criminals and the terrorists have been playing in the country over the last many years.

While the terrorists and criminals were making safe havens in the area, the government continued to voice ‘all well’ and ‘terror free South Punjab’ throughout the rule of over eight years, the opposition leader held.

After he read out his motion, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan replied that in the next 24 to 48 hours, the notorious Chotu gang would be completely busted and the area control would be with the law enforcement agencies and writ of the government established there.

The motion was taken up in the zero hour of the proceedings. The Opp wanted to speak much on it but the Chair amid strong protest by it, proroguing the session indefinitely.

Earlier, Mahmudur Rashid asked the Punjab government to explain why it did not take action earlier and only woke up after the military leadership rose to act against the terrorists in Southern Punjab following the Gulshan-e-Iqbal incident. He further questioned why the government evaded action and continued to harp on the tune of good governance and peace in the province when Zarb-e-Azb and National Action Plan called for army and Rangers action anywhere in the country where the terrorists and hardened criminals harboured.

The PTI leader held the government knew well the criminals elements were there in Southern areas. “Now the question is who protected and saved them from facing the military and the rangers operation which started after we have lost the lives of several police personnel and captivity of over two dozen by the Chotu gang members,” he added.

The Opposition, he said, continued to point out presence of terrorists and criminals but the government remained unmoved. He further argued that still the plan prepared to deal with the criminals at the head of the IG Police was flawed.

Quoting the media reports, he told the House that the martyrs were equipped with worn out security jackets and helmets which failed to protect them properly during the operation.

On the law minister’s call, the House offered prayers for the martyred policemen. Rana Sana Ullah explained to the House composition of the Katcha areas and said that in the past when operation was launched on these nefarious elements they slipped to Balochistan and came back after operation from the other side was carried out.

“In this way they saved their skin,” he said and added that the policemen were taken hostage when they went deep into the area without knowing the criminals were hiding in the bunkers. “Our law enforcement agencies made successful operation on two other sides.”

Sanaullah said that 1000 specially trained policemen and elite force commandos, under the command of two army colonels, were fighting the criminals in Katcha where now army gunship helicopters and mortars under Rangers were successfully making advance movement.

He assured the House that in next 24 to 48 hours, situation would be quite clear the whole area would be under control of the police. He also ruled out offering any negotiations offer to the criminals.

Earlier the Chair did not accept Treasury women argument for providing them Blue Passport (privileged passport) as it was done in the case of National Assembly women members. The Chair said he himself was surrendering his blue passport in favour of the Green (ordinary) one.

MPA Sheikh Allauddin, from an official statement, contended 60million people in country, majority in Punjab, were living below the poverty line and urged the Chair to shift billions of rupees of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), Zakat and Usher and Baitul Mall to providing eatable kitchen items to these highly poor at 50 per cent cut price.

He said Punjab has surplus wheat which could be immediately provided to them on 50 per cent decreased rate. The Chair pended this motion for debate in the next session.

The House also opened debate on the audit report presented by the Parliamentary Secretary on Baitul Mall. During the question the Hours took queries pertaining to Agriculture Department.