No plans to ban Kashmiri militant outfits, says Pak
24 August 2001
The Indian Express
Karachi: PAKISTAN today said that the crackdown against Islamic extremist groups in the country was confined to only two banned sectarian outfits and made it clear that it had no plans of banning religious seminaries and militant outfits operating in Kashmir. The crackdown in Karachi during the past two days was confined to arresting the activities of the two groups — the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Sipha-e- Mohammad — recently banned by the government for fanning sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis, Defence spokesman Rashid Qureshi said. Asked about reports of arrests of members of the outfits in Sindh and a ban on their fund collection in the name of jihad, Qureshi said that no jihadi groups operated from Pakistan. He said that Pakistan has a number of legally-operated charitable trusts for various causes. But the people resorting to public fund collections in the name of jihad only brought bad name for the country. ‘‘Jihadis do not exist in Pakistan,’’ he said adding some militant groups operating in Kashmir had their offices in Pakistan ‘‘like PLO or the IRA having their offices in a number of other countries’’. He said that Pakistan extends diplomatic and moral support to Kashmir ‘‘liberation fighters’’ but none of them operate from Pakistan. Qureshi said that some of those arrested in Karachi on August 22 were not actually jihadis but people attempting to collect funds in the name of ‘‘freedom struggle’’ in Kashmir. ‘‘They have been arrested and their fund collection boxes seized because it is illegal,’’ he said. Qureshi also denied that militants were crossing the Line of Control (LoC) and indulging in violence in Kashmir valley. ‘‘India has a three-layered defence made up of barbed wires and minefields. How is it possible for the militants to cross the LoC and enter into Kashmir,’’ he said. Qureshi said Pakistan would not allow any illegal or extremist activities from its soil. He said though the crackdown currently focussed on Sindh, the government has already launched a nationwide drive to curb the activities of sectarian outfits. In this regard, he cited the example of recent nationwide arms recovery drive by the government after banning the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipha-e-Mohammad. Qureshi’s remarks came a day after Pakistan Minister for Religious Affairs Mehmood Ahmad Ghazi said in Rawalpindi that the government has no plans of banning militant outfits or restricting the activities of seminaries. Ghazi told reporters that the Sindh government has only banned public display of arms and open collection of funds by militant groups in the name of jihad. Reports from Karachi said that local security agencies in a two-pronged crackdown raided the offices of several jihadi outfits as well as the two sectarian outfits. On August 22, police raided the offices of militant groups, including the Lashkhar- e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Harkat-ul-Ansar, in Karachi and rounded over 250 members. However, they were released a day later with a warning that they should not resort to public fund collections. The militant groups flayed the ban on fund collection and vowed to carry on with their drive. Police in Karachi, however, continued the crackdown against the sectarian outfits — the Lashkar-e- Jhangvi and the Shipa-e-Mohammad. The State Bank of Pakistan also ordered a freeze of all accounts held by the two banned groups. Police also raided the offices of the ‘‘parent’’ outfits of these two banned organisations as well as a number of mosques under their control and arrested 25 persons and seized 10 weapons. While banning the two organisations, President Pervez Musharraf had also warned the Sunni extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba of Pakistan (SSP) and its Shia rival group the Tehrik-e-Jafria of Pakistan (TJP) against indulging in sectarian violence.