March 8, 2019 |

Following formally banning Jamaat ud Dawah (JuD) and its humanitarian arm, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), the government on March 5 also moved to take over the institutional paraphernalia associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) across the country.

The Sindh government alone took over control of 56 facilities including schools, hospitals and madaris previously run by Jamat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat.

For optics, this all looks good. But the issue begging a fundamental question is whether semantics will also change? Will the provincial governments, supported by the security establishment, be able to exercise real control over the institutions of the two organizations and mainstream them in line with the constitution of Pakistan?

Lets us look back as to what has been happening in Pakistan on this count!

Under former president General Pervez Musharraf several militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehreek-i-Islami (TI) and Tehreek-i-Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM) were outlawed on Jan 14, 2002, followed by the ban on the shia Tehreek-i-Jafria Pakistan (TJP) on Jan 28.

Two others, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-i-Mohammad Pakistan (SMP), militant outfits of SSP and TJP respectively, were banned on Aug 14, 2001. In August and November 2003, the government added the names of Al Qaeda, Millat-i-Islamia Pakistan,

Khuddamul Islam, Jamiatul Ansar, Jamiatul Furqan and Hizbut Tehrir also to the list of proscribed organizations, many of which were already designated as terrorist entities either by the United States or the United Nations or both.

Another four groups were banned after a gap of about two years – the Lashkar-i-Islam, Ansarul Islam and Haji Namdar Group on June 30, 2008, and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan on Aug 25, 2008.

In addition to these radical relgio-political entities, the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army was placed on the list on April 7, 2006.

The latest additions to the list are the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Rahmah Welfare Trust Organisation (ARWTO), and of course the Jamattudawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat, raising the number of proscribed organizations to at least 70.

On paper this record always looked impressive. Largely it has also constrained space for most of the banned militant organizations. Yet, the seminaries and mosque that many organizations ran under new names (Rehmat Trust for example for JeM) continued to thrive, draw donations, support from local politicians as well as officials. JuD and its affiliates did the same, including collecting hides and cash donations even in Islamabad – despite the February 2018 announcement that its entire infrastructure had been taken over by the government, only a couple of days ahead of the Paris meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The same happened this year; on the eve of another FATF review meeting, the Punjab government announced to take over the JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur. However well meaning it may have been, but outsiders took as an attempt to hoodwink the observers, raising serious questions about the move.

And we should not forget that Jaish-e-Mohammad has been at the centre of Pakistan’s stand-off with India for over a decade; beginning with the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament in Dec 2001 to the Jan 2106 Pathankot and September Uri raids, the JeM has been omnipresent – regardless whether rightly or wrongly.

This has haemorrhaged Pakistan’s image all over the world as much as claims of similar acts by Lashkare Taiba. This gives Islamabad all the more reason to neutralize and disband these organizations ASAP. How can the state tolerate an outfit that continues to Pakistan internationally more than anything else? Isn’t it about time to terminate the red herring that is being used to drag and muddy Pakistan’s image? Given the existing desire for doing so, this will be achievable only through a united and pro-active civil-military leadership. They shall have to ‘walk the talk’ through demonstrable indiscriminate actions against all non-state actors.

For achieving our development-focused objectives, we do need smart, proactive policies for a process, and not one-off actions under external pressures.

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