Islamabad: Pakistan’s latest bid to curtail radical preaching group and anti-India militant organisation Jamaatud Dawah (JuD) and its chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed appears to be another half-hearted step to shun extremism. ,
The JuD, accused of actively supporting Kashmiris to get rid of India, was placed ‘under watch’ by the government while Saeed along with four other leaders were placed in ‘preventive detention’ as terror suspects last month.
Last month the Interior Ministry took initiative against JuD and its relief wing Falah e Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) to comply with the delayed United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267, which urges states to curtail public and financial activities of alleged terrorists linked to the Taliban.
The ministry also placed FIF in the watch list for close surveillance under the 1997 Anti-Terrorist Act for six months.
JuD has been under observation since 2007, according to the National Counter terrorism Authority (NACTA). However, it has been operating freely for the past several years without any official charge, other than being on the watch list.
Prior to last month’s detention of Saeed and fellow leaders, JuD had announced nationwide public events to show solidarity with the Indian Kashmir freedom movement.
JuD has said that it now plans to continue work under different guise and to carry Pakistani flags instead of JuD flags. Some rickshaw-ads in Lahore are showing JuD re-labelled as “Tehreek e Azadi e Jammu o Kashmir” (Movement for Freedom of Jammu and Kashmir).
“We are not banned. We are under observation. And under observation status does not bar us from activities,” Yahya Mujahid, JuD spokesperson told Truth Tracker.
“We are also moving court against the unjustified detention of our leadership.”
He said, “These steps were taken on American pressure to please India and such steps have given negative message to freedom fighters in Indian Kashmir.” He said the group will continue to work as part of different religious alliances and legally and politically resist its leaders’ detention.
“Hence we have dedicated this year to Kashmiris’ struggle so we will carry Pakistani flags in our rallies instead of the JUD’s flags,” he said.
Outlawing radical organisations is not new in Pakistan. Since 2001 when Pakistan joined the US alliance in the war on terror, steps against extremist and militant factions have produced few results .
Hafiz Saeed was first detained in December 2001 after Indian allegations of his involvement in the attack on the Indian parliament. He was again briefly detained in 2006 after the Mumbai train bombings, but was freed on the orders of the Lahore High Court after no proof was produced against him. In 2009 he was placed in ‘preventive custody’ following the Mumbai hotel attack after the United Nations placed him on the list of alleged terrorists under Security Council resolution 1267. The courts again freed him after a few months after the government was unable to prove anything against him . In 2015 a Pakistani court also set free Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, another alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks and an alleged key leader of JuD and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Lashkar-e-Taiba had been banned in Pakistan, after which JuD surfaced, declaring its mission was to preach Islam and Jihad.
Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, another banned outfit active on Kashmir front, was detained in Pakistan after the Indian parliament attack in 2001, only to be freed on court orders in 2002. Pakistan claimed to have detained him again in 2016 following an attack on the Pathankot airbase. However his exact whereabouts are unknown. . Pakistan banned the JeM in January 2002, but It re-emerged with the new label “Khuddam-ul-lslam” which was also banned in 2003. JeM however is still active in Pakistan with its flag, online presence and periodical publications.
Pakistan banned another sectarian extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP in 2002. It re-emerged as Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan, also banned in 2003. It again re-emerged, under the name Ahl-e-Sunnah Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), which was banned in 2012. The group nevertheless continues to operate freely and hold public events.
The group’s militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) was proscribed in 2001 but it remains active through splinter groups and an alliance with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, according to official reports by intelligence agencies and Interior Ministry.
Tehreek-i-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP), a Shiite organization countering the SSP and LeJ was banned in 2002 and re-emerged as Islami Tehreek Pakistan only to be added to the list of proscribed groups in 2003. But, it’s chief Allama Sajid Naqvi is active with a title of Quaid e Millat e Jaferia (Leader of Shia Nation) and enjoys security by the government.
“As far as I recall, we lack a proper law on it,” Khawaja Khalid Farooq, former head of NACTA, told Truth Tracker
“The people and organisations take advantage of legal lacunas. However, we can control them by targeting them individually, like effective monitoring of people on the watch list (under observation) according to existing laws. The mechanisms are there but, perhaps, they are not followed in letter and spirit.”
In 2003, Pakistan again decided to ban all extremist outfits who have reportedly regrouped under new names but could not do much. Following the National Action Plan to counter terror in 2014, verbal efforts went high to counter these groups and subgroups.
Point Seven of the 20-point National Action Plan agenda calls for “ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations.” A 2016 report by FATA Research Centre (FRC), a non-profit research group, found that militancy and violence by proscribed factions went up by 34 per cent in the tribal areas. .
“Many in Pakistan under-estimate the consequences of falling afoul of the guidelines issued by groups like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), of which the Asia Pacific Group is a sub-grouping,” Khurrum Hussain, columnist and analyst said.
“If Pakistan does not act against these persons and organisations listed in UNSCR 1267, it will have far reaching impact on the ability of Pakistani banks to establish correspondent banking relationships with banks around the world, negatively impact our trade, remittances and all manner of financial flows with the outside world.”
He said that as a first step, Pakistan should comply with UNSCR 1267 “which lists groups and individuals to be banned, meaning their travel and movement is to be controlled, their assets seized and funds frozen.”
“At a minimum, this compliance would at least ensure that the presence of entities and individuals designated by the United Nations as terrorists does not pose an imminent threat to the country’s financial system, and thereby to the larger economy.”
Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research Security Studies think-tank attributes the lack of action by Pakistani authorities to “a matter of will.”
“Poor enforcement of law is the lead cause of such issues. The government will have to act to stop individuals and groups from hate mongering and enforcing ideology,”Gul told Truth Tracker.
There are several other banned militant groups like Harkatul Mujahideen and Jamaatul Ansar, whose leaders can be seen in the rallies of Difa e Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defence Council).