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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Pakistan takes over 182 religious schools in militant crackdown

Islamabad says the raids are unconnected to cross-border tension with India

A private security guard stands outside a mosque that was administered by the banned outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 6, 2019. EPA
A private security guard stands outside a mosque that was administered by the banned outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 6, 2019. EPA

Imran Khan's government said it arrested 121 people and took over scores of religious schools in a major crackdown on banned extremist organisations.

Pakistan's Interior Ministry said it put the people into “preventive detention” and took control of 182 seminaries, 34 schools or universities, five hospitals and 63 dispensaries.

The crackdown was on welfare organisations that the US and India say are a front for militant groups.

Meanwhile, a grenade attack claimed by pro-Pakistan Kashmiri separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen killed one and wounded at least 32 at a bus stand in the town of Jammu, in Indian-administered Kashmir.

India last week launched its first air strike in nearly 50 years on its neighbour, saying it hit a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed group, which Delhi blames for a suicide bombing that killed 40 police.

Pakistan denies any role in the Pulwama attack last month. This week's crackdown was long planned and not in response to Delhi's demands that Islamabad tackle the militant group, it said.

The group has been banned since 2002 but continues to operate freely inside Pakistan, the US said.

Another group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which runs hospitals and a fleet of ambulances, is said to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is accused of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The international community has for years put pressure on Pakistan to rein in the militants, but previous crackdowns have at times seemed largely for show.

The most recent US State Department assessment of terrorism in Pakistan said the country “did not take sufficient action against other externally focused groups” that “continued to operate, train, organise and fundraise in Pakistan”.

Some analysts believe the country's powerful military establishment, which dictates national security policy and has been accused of sponsoring militants, has now decided they are becoming a liability.

Pakistan has been warned of international financial sanctions unless it tackles the groups' cash streams.

Many banned organisations run madrassas, which are often used to recruit, radicalise and train young people into a life of militancy.

India last week claimed to have bombed one such school near Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in what it called a pre-emptive strike against militants preparing an imminent attack.

Satellite images have since shown the Jaish-e-Mohammed madrassa at the scene was undamaged by the raid.

Updated: March 8, 2019 02:11 AM

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