Hafiz Saeed, center, head of religious group Jamaat-ud-Dawa leaves after addressing a rally against caricatures published in French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. -AP/File
ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a move towards the swift implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), Pakistan on Thursday said the bank accounts of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) have been frozen and foreign travel restrictions have been imposed on Hafiz Saeed, the organisation's leader.
"Pakistan took this decision under the UN obligation and not under pressure from any other quarter including John Kerry," Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said in a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.
Aslam said that assets of all banned organisations in the country have been frozen and that the country is taking action against terrorists with discrimination, according to a report published on Radio Pakistan.
The FO spokesperson also said that the Haqqani Network has also been banned, however, she added that the organisation does not have bank accounts in Pakistan. She further reiterated that the decision has been taken in Pakistan's own interest and not due to external pressure.
The US and India both have always considered JuD, the ‘charity’ organisation run by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, as the sister organisation of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant outfit facing blame of masterminding 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The Haqqani Network, founded by Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, has been blamed for some of the most deadly attacks on US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States in September 2012.
An interior ministry official a day earlier confirmed to Dawn.com that Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and the Haqqani network are in the list of proscribed outfits. However, the government showed reluctance to announce the curb in an official capacity.
Talking to Dawn.com, an interior ministry official said the United States had sought a ban on the Haqqani network and the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) but the matter was being delayed.
According to the documents available with Dawn.com, the interior ministry has added Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, Ummah Tameer-i-Nau, Haji Khairullah Hajji Sattar Money Exchange, Rahat Limited, Roshan Money Exchange, Al Akhtar Trust, Al Rashid Trust, Haqqani network and Jamaatud Dawa to the list of proscribed organisations.
“During his recent visit to Islamabad, US Secretary of State John Kerry also appreciated the decision of the government to put a ban on the Haqqani network and the Jamaatud Dawa,” the official said.
He said the government had already directed the departments concerned to take immediate steps to freeze the assets of the banned outfits, including the Haqqani Network and JuD.
Editorial: Ban on militant groups
In the long, convoluted history of the Pakistani state banning militant groups, the present episode may be the most mysterious: a US government spokesperson has publicly and explicitly welcomed a decision by Pakistan to ban several more militant groups, even though absolutely no one in government here has made any such announcement.
If US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf’s assertion in a news briefing on Friday proves true — “We welcome [the decision] to outlaw the Haqqani network, Jamaatud Dawa, and I think about 10 other organisations linked to violent extremism,” Ms Harf is quoted as saying — it would demonstrate that the bad old days of Pakistani leaders treating external powers as more relevant and important in matters of national security than, say, the Pakistani public or parliament have never really gone away.
Even more problematically, the latest move — if, indeed, it is announced soon, as Ms Harf has claimed it will be — would bolster the perception that Pakistan is fighting militancy at the behest of others, especially the US, and not because this is a war that this country must fight and win for its own survival.
There is no doubt that the Pakistani state needs to do more against a much wider spectrum of militant and extremist groups operating its soil.
Focusing on simply the so-called anti-Pakistan militant networks such as the TTP will only produce medium-term results, perhaps, but guarantees long-term failure in the fight against militancy. This is both because of the overlapping nature of militant groups — operational, strategic and ideological — and because a long-term future where the state is in competition with militias for predominance inside Pakistan is not a future that ought to be acceptable to anyone in this country.
So yes, the Haqqani network needs to be banned as does the Jamaatud Dawa and sundry more names that may come to light soon. But without a zero-tolerance policy against militancy, there will be no winning strategy.
Zero tolerance certainly does not mean simply military operations and heavy-handed counterterrorism measures in the urban areas; what it does suggest is a commitment to progressively disarm and dismantle militant groups and the wider extremist network that enables those groups to survive and thrive.
Of course, simply banning more groups will not mean much unless the previous bans are implemented, the new bans cover all incarnations of a militant group, and there are sustained efforts by the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus to ensure banned organisations do not quietly regroup once the initial focus fades. That has never happened before.
And the present is even more complicated. What will a ban on the Haqqani network mean in practice given that the major sanctuary in North Waziristan has already been disrupted by Operation Zarb-e-Azb? What will banning the JuD mean for the Falahi Insaniyat Foundation? Will the government offer answers — to anything?