Pakistan Leads Intense Crackdown on Militant Groups and Seizes Facilities
In response to mounting international pressure, Pakistan has carried out an intense crackdown on Islamist militant groups. On Thursday, March 7, over 100 people linked to militant groups were detained and over 182 religious schools, or madrasahs, were taken over by the government.
Various other institutions have also come under government control across the country including, 34 schools and colleges, 163 dispensaries, 184 ambulances and five hospitals.
Of the hundred people detained, the brother of the leader Masood Azhar, Mufti Abdul Rauf and the alleged son Hamad Azhar were placed in detention. The militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed(JeM) claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack in Pulwama, India-Administered Kashmir. Rauf was named in the dossier that India shared with Pakistan.
Multiple Islamic charities were also banned by the government. These charities are often suspected of being fronts for militant groups. Organizations like Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation have both been placed on the banned list due to their connections to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, LeT, and its leader, Hafiz Saeed. Lashkar-e-Taiba was blamed for the 2008 attack in Mumbai, which led to the death of 166 people.
Pakistan has banned JeM, LeT and Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, along with 68 other militant groups, according to the country’s counter-terrorism agency.
“Pakistan, if it takes an aggressive, no-tolerance stand against Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harakat ul-Mujahideen, will suffer a violent backlash domestically,” explained Adnan Naseemullah, an expert in international affairs at London’s King’s College.
“But a zero-tolerance policy from the Pakistani state will over time shift the focus back on Kashmir and the treatment of the Kashmiri people, which is in Pakistan’s long-term interest,”
The banned militant organizations that Naseemullah refers to are Pakistan-based group which seek to eliminate India’s control in the Kashmir region.
The United Nations has already placed sanctions on JeM and LeT. The United States, UK and France have requested for the UN Security Council to sanction Masood Azhar as well.
The shutdown of Islamic welfare charities presents a complex issue as these services often provide the only healthcare and emergency services for millions of low-income families. Some madrasahs and seminaries have been seen as a site for recruitment and radicalization of young children but, often are the only form of education that is available to millions of young children. About 300 madrasahs have been linked to Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The government plans to take over all linked madrasahs and seize their assets and infrastructure.
The civil governments of each province will now run the targeted institutions. Imams and sermon-givers will also be appointed by the federal Auqaf Department in the mosques that were shut down.
According to Wahab Murtaza, the adviser to Chief Minister of Sindh Syed Ali Murad Shah, the staff of the 56 reopened facilities in Sindh will remain the same even after due clearance and security.
This has been Pakistan’s first attempt to restrain the power of Islamist militant groups in which, the military and civil government have worked together to detain suspects and gain control over service facilities.
“Previous governments were not serious about cracking down on these anti-India groups, because these guys did not pose a serious challenge to Pakistan, so there was no urgency to work on them,” stated Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
“But we have said that now we won’t let even these organizations work here. No militant organizations can work from Pakistan anymore.”