Pakistan has outlawed two militant groups accused of plotting terrorist attacks in neighboring India and Afghanistan. The announcement comes before President Barack Obama’s trip to New Delhi this week.
In recent days Pakistan has banned many Islamist groups suspected of supporting terrorist activities. The crackdown is part of an intensified counterterrorism campaign in response to last month’s deadly attack on a school in Peshawar.
But until Thursday, it was not publicly known the list included Jamaatud Dawa and the Haqqani network.
These two militant organizations have long strained Islamabad’s ties with Washington and New Delhi. Afghan and American officials say the Pakistan-based Haqqani network launched deadly raids in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistani spy agency, ISI. India insists Jamaatud Dawa is the new name of Lashkar-e-Taiba and accuses it of being behind terrorist raids in India.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam explained the government is bound to take immediate action against any group or individuals designated by the U.N. sanction committee. She also suggested the ban against Jamaatud Dawa has been in place for a while.
“As soon as the U.N. Sanctions Committee lists or proscribes an individual, an entity, under the U.N. Security Council resolutions we are required to freeze their assets and ensure that their [foreign] travel is restricted,” said Aslam.
The Jamaatud Dawa is also said to have links to Pakistani ISI and actively supports the Muslim insurgency in the Indian-rule portion of the divide Kashmir region. Seven of the group’s members are on trial in an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan for playing a role in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
Since the school attack a month ago, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has launched a National Action Plan to broaden its counter-extremism efforts.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for massacring 150 people in the assault and has vowed similar attacks against children in future.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aslam dismissed suggestions the bans were made under U.S. pressure. “You should know it that National Action Plan has been under discussion before, it has nothing to do with the U.S. Secretary of State's visit. These are actions that Pakistan is taking for its own sake for the protection of its own people and to eradicate terrorism from Pakistan once and for all,” she stated.
Critics are skeptical whether the ban on the designated groups will yield desired results. They cite Pakistan’s previous decisions to ban dozens of sectarian and militant organizations, with no action taken when they re-emerged with new titles.
India has long demanded Pakistan bring to justice the men now on trial for the Mumbai attack, before resuming talks to address outstanding dispute. But the Pakistan government insists it has no control over the country’s independent judicial process.
Prime Minister Sharif's advisor on national security, Sartaj Aziz, says he hopes recent developments, including President Barack Obama's trip this weekend to India may help ease regional tensions.
"We were first assuming that probably because of the elections in [Indian] Kashmir the resumption of dialogue is being postponed. ... So, I am hopeful that gradually and certainly the tension on the LoC [Kasmir Line of Control] for the last two days has been quieter. So, all these issues need to be resolved, but that depends on dialogue. Without dialogue you cannot resolve any of these issues," stated Aziz.
India and Pakistan's armies have traded deadly fire in recent months in violation of a decade-long mutual ceasefire in Kashmir. The divided territory has been the cause of two wars and many skirmishes between India and Pakistan.