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The real problem is the cosmetic nature of the government's attempts. In 2001, when the government started the proscribed list, there was so much pressure from the US, after the 9/11. During the recent years, the FATF discussions and the threat of Grey List weighs heavily within Pakistan to be seen as taking actions against the groups.


Editorial



Pakistan bans three more organizations as proscribed, but the problem remains

D. Suba Chandran
Professor
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore

On 12 May, newspapers in Pakistan reported that three organizations from Sindh - Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz-Aresar Group (JSQM-A), Sindhu Desh Revolution Army (SRA) and Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SLA) were newly included into the list of proscribed organizations by the government of Pakistan.

Since 2001, Pakistan has been holding a list, in which it kept adding names that were considered as engaged in unlawful activities. Last year, in May 2019, eleven groups were added to the list; seven of them had links with the JuD, and the rest with FIF and JeM. ("11 groups banned for having links with JuD, others," Dawn, 12 May 2019). Earlier in 2019, the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) were banned.

The sectarian organizations such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Mohammad Pakistan tops this list, followed by militant ones from Balochistan. Some of the leading organizations fighting in J&K such as the LeT and JeM are also in the list. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was added in 2008.

However, the problem is the practice. Though these organizations are banned legally, most of them remain active and operate in the public. In 2015, the then interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was reported to have announced that in Punjab alone, there were 95 organizations that were active. ("95 banned groups active in Punjab," Dawn, 15 January 2015). The reason was simple. Some parties find them useful and politically expedient. Dawn quoted a source: "all these militant outfits have been present in Punjab for quite some time, but instead of acting against them, the PML-N preferred to cohabitate with them."

So does the Deep State, for external reasons in Afghanistan and India.

Many of these groups are active online. In 2017, an investigation carried out by Dawn, details the list of groups that are active in the social media. According to the report, "while some of the Facebook pages and groups claim to be 'official' representatives of the outfits, others appear to be managed by members and supporters in ideological agreement." ("Banned outfits in Pakistan operate openly on Facebook," Dawn, 14 September 2017)

The bigger problem is the investigation and judicial trial. The recent  (April 2020) change in sentencing Omar Saeed Sheikh and the release of others in the case of killing of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal in 2002 would highlight the problem in Pakistan. ("Pakistani Court Overturns Murder Conviction in Killing of Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl," The Wall Street Journal, 2 April 2020). The Pearls parents are continuing their fight demanding justice.

Another problem is the transparency. Last month, the Wall Street Journal also reported on Pakistan removing around 1800 names from the list of 7600, who were a part of the proscribed persons list maintained by Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). On what basis did the government decide to cut the names drastically has been questioned by many. ("Pakistan Removes Thousands of Names From Terrorist Watch List," The Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2020)

Equally important issue is related to criminal justice system. A few days earlier, the Islamabad High Court made a scathing attack on the subject; the Chief Justice Athar Minallah was quoted to have stated it as "a reflection of the apathy, neglect and mis-governance of the past seven decades and no organ of the state can absolve itself from being responsible." ("Unequal Justice," Dawn, 7 May 2020). In another instance, the same Court also questioned on investigation training and the code of criminal procedure. ("IHC seeks explanation over delay in enforcing 2002 police reforms in capital," Dawn, 9 May 2020)

Finally, the real problem is the cosmetic nature of the government's attempts. In 2001, when the government started the proscribed list, there was so much pressure from the US, after the 9/11. During the recent years, the FATF discussions and the threat of Grey List weighs heavily within Pakistan to be seen as taking actions against the groups.

Why is the State reluctant to take actions against all the militant groups that it has proscribed? It is another discussion.

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