By Waqar Gillani
Islamabad: Pakistan’s failure to execute a clear policy for the extremist and proscribed religious outfits and their political patronage has created confusion over the status of such groups, say analysts, victims of terrorism and political leaders.
Recently Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan’s met with Difa-e-Pakistan Council (Council for Defence of Pakistan), an alliance of more than a dozen hardliner religious factions including some defunct and under watch groups allegedly involved in sectarian and cross border militancy.
These groups include Ahl-e-Sunnah Wal Jamaat (A diehard anti-Shiite Islamic faction surfaced with this new name after being banned in Pervez Musharraf regime) and Jamaat-ul-Dawah (JuD), parent organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant outfit allegedly involved in backing Indian Kashmir’s freedom movement. JuD denies its links with LeT.
According to the official data of country’s National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA), ASWJ is among the proscribed factions and it was banned in 2012. Its parent organization Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its militant offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) were already banned during Pervez Musharraf’s regime. Moreover, JuD is also on the watch lists of Pakistan and the United Nations.
Point seven of 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, evolved by the state after deadly attack on Army Public School Peshawar that took nearly 150 lives of innocent students and teachers in December 2014, calls for “ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations.”
Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari, young leader of one of the main opposition parties – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), in his recent speech in Quetta on October 29, criticised the ruling PPML-N for patronizing such groups.
“The country’s Interior Minister is having a photo session with the good-Taliban hours after a deadly attack on Quetta police academy,” he said.
“The continued existence and power of violent extremists in Pakistan manifests three realities. It shows the lack of clear policy on the future of these groups despite the existence of NAP; the continuation of national security set by military in 1980s where sectarian and jihadist militias were made into cornerstones of national security; and shows lack of introspection that these groups far from bolstering our defence have become liabilities. And there is no serious thinking on what to do with the cadres even when their leadership is eliminated through brutal force,” said Raza Rumi, a Pakistani journalist, who survived an ambush by terrorists, and a faculty member at Ithaca College, USA.
Following the meeting of Interior Minister Khan with DPC, last week, security forces have arrested a number of members of Shiite organization Majlis-e-Wahdatul-Muslimeen (MWM-Council of United Muslims) in Karachi.
On November 4, security forces also arrested former senator of PPP Faisal Raza Abedi, who had left the party and resigned from the Senate, in his alleged involvement in some sectarian incidents and for keeping unlicensed weapons. However, he produced licensed for his weapons and a Karachi’s court released him on bail on November 10.
“This action of security forces in Sindh on the behest of government is part of their illogical balancing policy and it is meant to please the banned groups which have shaken hand with the government,” Raja Nasir Abbas, chief of MWM said while talking to Truth Tracker. He says the arrested leaders had no involvement in any terrorist activity.
”The tragedy is that the victims themselves are being treated as terrorists for a strange balancing policy to please extremist groups,” Abbas said.
A news in one of the leading English dailies has exposed this lack of will. The news, which according to Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan is baseless and caused serious civil-military divide affecting country’s security narrative, highlighted civilian leadership blaming intelligence agencies for allegedly backing such groups and isolating Pakistan in the world amid criticism of poor action against militants factions. “Civil and military leadership have always been on the same page about terrorist groups, and the story is misleading,” said Khan in a news briefing on October 29.
According to the established facts, in 2010 Punjab Government, headed by the same ruling leadership of PMLN, made an allocation of about Rs 10 million from its fiscal year 2009-10 budget to institutions linked to JuD. The allocation, amount and purpose were mentioned the budget documents for 2009-10. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah officially confirmed these figures, saying the money was given on “humanitarian grounds” for the organization’s hospital and schools. Similarly, in 2008, Malik Ishaq, chief of LeJ, killed in a police encounter in 2015, was given financial assistance by the same PML-N government as stipend for his family while he was facing trial in jail. The Punjab government had confirmed the disbursement saying it was for his Malik’s family.
Another step of the ruling PML-N posed a big question mark to the implementation of National Action Plan when the Interior Minister met leaders of DPC and allowed them to hold a public rally in the heart of Islamabad at the same time when the government launched a crackdown against its political opponent Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf on November 28.
“The civilian governments are not empowered and not interested enough to do that as even the mention of addressing such groups’ results in serious discord with the establishment as we saw in the case of daily dawn leaks,” Mr. Rumi told Truth Tracker. “The ruling PML-N due to its conservative base in central Punjab has found it expedient to enter into electoral alliances and therefore it cannot shift the entire blame on the military here.”
He says that National Security Committee headed by PM Sharif has to keep on discussing the options and should seriously find ways to clean up the country. Use of force is easy and tempting but more important is to find ways of disarming the militants. “For this, we need a clear consensus among all civilians that jihadists are a serious threat,” said Rumi.
“PMLN and other political parties have to stop patronage of sectarian militias totally. On the other brand of jihadis it also needs to come up with alternatives for the security establishment. At present Imran Khan does not consider jihadists a threat and continues to be their apologist. This weakens the case of PML-N to engage with the military on this issue,” Rumi concludes.