Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

PAKISTAN: Islamic activists rounded up, leader arrested

ISLAMABAD, 17 November 2003 (IRIN) - A ban imposed on three Islamic organisations by the Pakistani government over the weekend, in a move that saw dozens of Islamic activists rounded up across the country, was the continuation of a ban imposed last year, according to a senior government official.

"This is a continuation of the old ban on groups that had become active under new names," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad told IRIN in the capital, Islamabad. "If they become active again under new names and the government does nothing, then it [such a ban] is useless," he stressed.

President Pervez Musharraf banned five militant groups in early 2002, following the 11 September 11 attacks in the US and a daring attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi in December 2001 by militants India said had been trained in Pakistan. Pakistan denied the charge.

Among the outlawed groups were the Sunni organisation, Sipah-e-Sahab-ye Pakistan, which later re-emerged as Millat-e Islami-ye Pakistan (MIP); and its rival, the Shi’ah group, Tahrik-e Ja'fari-ye Pakistan, which, thereafter, renamed itself Islami Tahrik-e Pakistan (ITP). Both the new organisations have been banned.

A third group that has been newly banned is Khuddam ul-Islam, previously known as Jeysh-e Muhammad, which has been fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The ITP leader, Sajid Naqvi, was arrested in a late-night raid in Islamabad, but it was not clear whether his arrest was in his capacity as the leader of the sectarian outfit, or because he is alleged to have been involved in the murder of his chief rival, Azam Tariq, of the MIP, who was gunned down in a hail of bullets by unknown assailants early last month near the Pakistani capital.

"As for the arrest of Sajid Naqvi, when you are going to ban organisations, it becomes necessary to take action against their leaders," Sheikh Rashid said.

According to Dawn, a leading English-language broadsheet, which quoted sources as saying Naqvi was handed over to local police for a week-long investigation for his "alleged involvement" in Tariq’s assassination, four other central leaders of the ITP have been named in a complaint lodged with the police.

But Naqvi’s arrest was hotly contested by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, vice-president of the Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA), a coalition of opposition Islamic parties which joined ranks to contest general elections last year and which made astonishing gains, primarily on the back of the anti-US sentiment following the US-led war in neighbouring Afghanistan. Naqvi is also an MMA vice-president.

"Sajid Naqvi is a very highly respected religious and political personality. He is not involved in any terrorist activity," Ahmed stressed. "He contested the elections as a member of a registered political party, and to accuse him of being a terrorist or any such thing is a clear violation of human and civil rights," he declared, adding that the MMA had already decided to go to court.

Also over the weekend, authorities raided offices of the ITP, the MIP and the Khuddam-ul-Islam across the country, sealing the offices and hauling activists away by the dozens. A newspaper report said 60 offices and seminaries had been sealed in the populous eastern province of the Punjab.

“This crackdown is not constitutional and a violation of basic rights. We will go to court,” Ahmed said.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict



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