ICMD, March 5, 2019

Pakistani authorities have picked up 44 members of banned organisations in a crackdown believed to have been initiated amidst mounting international pressure. Those arrested include the brother and son of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Masood Azhar.

JeM has been blamed for a deadly bombing in Indian-occupied Kashmir last month.

The Minister of State for Interior, Shehryar Afridi and Secretary Ministry of Interior, Azam Suleman Khan gave details of the crackdown in a joint press conference on Tuesday.

The drive against terrorists was part of a pre-planned initiative against militant groups. Any links to India’s repeated demands for Pakistan to take concrete actions against militant groups were denied as the real reason behind the series of arrests.

The interior ministry said the move was to “speed up action against all proscribed organizations” in Pakistan. The interior ministry termed the arrests as “protective custody”.

Rauf and Hammad Azhar, close relatives of Masood Azhar of JeM, were among listed in the dossier sent by the Indian Government in connection with the Pulwama Attack.
“It does not mean that action is being taken against only those individuals who are mentioned in the dossier “stated the Interior Secretary while talking with the media.
Khan further stated, “If we have to take over any organization’s assets, we will do so. As assets of organizations already declared as proscribed, under the Anti Terrorism Act, 1997 can be confiscated.”
In response to a question about JuD and FIF still being on the watch list, the Secretary assured that the ban will take effect within 24 hours and a notification will be issued by the interior ministry.

When pressed by journalists to disclose names of other detainees, the secretary said, “We cannot reveal any more names at this point. Those we have taken into preventive detention will be investigated, and if we learn more names along the way we will list them accordingly.”

“This is Pakistan’s decision the action will continue for two weeks. Every single detail will be shared with all stakeholders,” said Afridi. He stressed that the action was being taken for the national interest of Pakistan and “we do not want ‘outsiders’ to level allegations against Pakistan”.
Taking over madrasas

Two senior security officials say that the Pakistani government has drawn up plans to take over all Islamic schools, known as madrasas, which are linked to groups banned by the United Nations and to seize their assets and infrastructure.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced a new order on Monday to update existing laws that deal with those on U.N. sanctions lists. The government said it had developed a “full-fledged strategy” to deal with militants and it was looking to close “loopholes” that allowed banned groups to operate.

Officials say that the government may consider recruiting some of the militants into paramilitary forces or seek other ways to find them jobs and incorporate them into normal society at a later stage. – Agencies/DT