Pakistan shuts banned groups' offices

Authorities in Pakistan have closed down more than 130 offices of armed groups banned at the weekend, but no arrests have been reported.

    More than 130 offices of armed groups have been closed

    "No one has been arrested but we have sealed a number of offices used by banned groups," Brigadier Javad Cheema, head of the interior ministry's Crises Management Cell, said on Tuesday.

    "We will arrest those who violate the government ban and try to regroup or reorganise the banned parties." 

    An interior ministry official who is coordinating raids on the
    banned groups' facilities said 137 offices had been shut down. 

    "Up till now 137 offices of the banned groups have been sealed in various parts of the country," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. 

    Reemerging

    President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday outlawed three groups for ignoring bans he imposed on them in January last year. They had since reemerged under new names but with the same leaders. 

    Activists of Islami Tehrik shout
    anti-government slogans

    The groups outlawed under the 1997 Anti Terrorist Act are:
    Islami Tehrik, the reformed Shia armed group Tehrik-e-Jafria; Khudam ul-Islam, the new name for Jaish-e-Mohammad organisation of anti-India rebels fighting in disputed Kashmir; Millat-e-Islami, which was the violent Sunni outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba. 

    Another group of rebels fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Taiba, was placed on a watchlist. 

    Lashkar and Jaish are blamed by India for a deadly attack on its parliament in December 2001, in which 14 people including the five gunmen were killed. 

    Musharraf banned all four groups plus a fifth hardline organisation, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Muhammad, 22 months ago in a high-profile crackdown on extremists following the attack. 

    Their leaders and around 2000 followers were jailed in
    follow-up raids but most, including the leaders, were eventually released on lack of evidence to justify their continued detention.

    Angry voices

    Pakistan's main Islamic alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), has vowed to defy the government's crackdown and said an outlawed Shia Muslim group would remain part of its coalition. 

    "This action has been taken at the behest of America. It has no justification"

    Ghafur Ahmad,

    MMA leader

    The leaders of MMA, an alliance of six hardline religious groups, met in Karachi late on Monday and rejected the move as "unjustified". 

    "This action has been taken at the behest of America. It has no justification," Ghafur Ahmad, a senior MMA leader, told the media.
     
    Sajid Ali Naqvi, a Shia cleric accused of involvement in the last month's murder of a rival Sunni Muslim leader, was arrested. 

    "Mr Sajid Naqvi... and his party will remain part of MMA," he said. 

    In the central city of Multan, several hundred Shia women protested against Naqvi's detention and demanded his immediate release. 

       

    SOURCE: Agencies


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