Action against banned religious organisations to be taken in Pakistan

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RAWALPINDI: The federal government has directed the provinces to launch action against proscribed (banned) religious outfits and those kept under observations by seizing their offices, weapons and properties.

The Ministry of Interior also instructed all the provincial chief secretaries and the chief commissioner of the capital territory Islamabad to submit reports on the organisations’ financial activities.

According to sources, the orders were issued to the chief secretaries of the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir to restrain members of all such organisations from continuing their activities.  The decision was taken after the recent statement of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in which he stressed the need for “putting our own house in order.”

This was followed by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s statement in the Senate on Thursday that it was the responsibility of the provincial governments to keep an eye on and take action against banned outfits, including those resurfacing under new names.

Schoolchildren leave the Ad-Dawah school; reportedly run by the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), in Muridke town some, 35 km from Lahore, in Punjab province.

There are, according to unconfirmed reports, around 64 banned religious organisations in Pakistan in addition to four who are under observations.

Two others – Al-Akhtar Trust and Al Rashid Trust – have been enlisted under a UN Security Council resolution for observations.

The federal government’s ‘most immediate’ communiqué was sent to the provincial governments and the chief commissioner Islamabad. The directive was issued under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 against proscribed and under-observation organisations.

The provinces were directed to seize all literature, posters, banners as well as printed, electronic, digital or other material of the outfits. Under the law, publication, printing or dissemination of any press statements, press conferences or public utterances by or on behalf of or in support of a proscribed organisation is prohibited.

The provinces were directed not to issue a passport or allow to travel abroad the office-bearers, activists or members or the associates of such organisations.

The provincial authorities were also directed that no bank or financial institution shall provide any loan or financial support or issue credit cards to such individuals who had been active members of the banned outfits.

And arm licences, if already issued, to them should be considered cancelled and the weapons be deposited in the nearest police station.

If they failed, all such arms shall be confiscated and the holders shall be liable to punishment provided under the Pakistan Arms Ordinance.

Besides, the provincial authorities were directed to ensure that the proscribed organisations shall submit all accounts of their income and expenditure for political and social welfare activities and disclose all funding sources to the competent authority.

When contacted, City Police Officer Rawalpindi Israr Ahmed Abbasi said proscribed organisations cannot be allowed to operate or hold any press conferences or publish any material.  “When an organisation has been banned, its activities are illegal. If anybody is found doing illegal activities, the police as well as the CTD will take action under the relevant sections of the ATA,” he said.

The CPO said the police had also been keeping vigilance on members of religious organisations placed under observation.