March 2002 News

Banned outfits drive to rock Pervez boat

19 March 2002
The Tribune
Muhammad Nazeeb

ISLAMABAD: Breakaway elements of five banned Pakistani fundamentalist and terrorist groups are stirring up a" "violent campaign" to destabilise the government, a newspaper reported today. The News, quoting unnamed senior government officials, said indications of such a campaign emerged after the interrogation of scores of suspected religious individuals who were arrested after the ban. On January 12, President Pervez Musharraf had proscribed the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Tehrik-e-Jafferiah and Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi. He had earlier banned the Harkat-ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. "At the top level Jaish, Lashkar, Harkat, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi may be distinct organisations but at the ground level their elements are now sharing knowledge and expertise to destabilise the government," a police official was quoted as saying. The paper said those interrogated thereafter disclosed that underground factions of their groups were working "together and separately" to destabilise the "pro-American government" in Pakistan. The paper said for the first time in several decades fissures have emerged in relationship between religious groups and die military authorities, which are struggling to adjust to the paradigm shift in Pakistan's national security policies after September 11. Pakistan's Interior Ministry had estimated that at least 5,000 religiously motivated: Pakistanis, trained in guerrilla warfare, were registered with the five core Sunni militant groups in Pakistan. All the five groups share strong, anti-America, anti-Musharraf and pro-Taliban views. In a reconciliatory signal to the religio-political forces in the country. the Musharraf administration allowed the release of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Sunday. Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed was released last month. Rehman and Qazi, the leaders of two largest religio-political parties, had led anti-government agitatipns against Musharrafs pro- US policies before their arrest in October last year. While waving a white flag to the religio-political groups, it seemed, the government has also extended an olive branch to "jehadi" organisations, with the government giving amnesty to the religious activists arrested in January." According to the daily News, the March 17 attack on a church here, in which five persons, including two Americans were killed, was seen as a move by banned militant groups to strike 'back' at; the Musharraf government for the crackdown against militants. "While waving a white flag to the religio-political groups, it seemed that the government has also extended an olive branch to the Jehadi organisations", the daily said, adding that a senior police official said the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Maulana Masood Azhar, and a former leader of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hafiz Muhamad Saeed, or any other top leader of the five banned militant groups could be released as no criminal charges were levelled against them. "In the absence of any serious charges, Maulana Masood and Hafi Saeed can be released any day," it quoted the police official as saying. Meanwhile, discounting recent reports that the ISI was dismantling its Kashmir and Afghan detachments, its former chief Javed Ashraf Qazi said the two controversial cells would continue to function within Pakistan's premier intelligence agency as it needed to keep itself informed about the situation on the borders. "The Kashmir and Afghan cells will not be dismantled. They will remain working to keep the organisation abreast with the situation at the borders", Mr. Qazi. who is the Federal Minister for Railways, told state-run Pakistan Television last night This is the first time that Pakistan has publicly acknowledged the existence of the Kashmir cell in the ISI.


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