New Delhi: “Pakistan is a terror haven,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj declared last week during a visit to China after India carried out air strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot region. These attacks were targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camps, the outfit that claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack.
Swaraj, in her address, said the air strikes conducted were non-military in nature. “It wasn't a military operation, no military installation was targeted. The objective was to act against terrorist infrastructure of the JeM to pre-empt another terror attack in India,” she said, adding that New Delhi doesn't wish to see further escalation of situation and will continue to act with “responsibility and restraint”.
Meanwhile, facing growing international pressure, Pakistan decided to ban terror outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its front Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF). The decision was taken in a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) chaired by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 21. Earlier, both terror outfits were kept on the watch-list of Pakistan's Interior Ministry under its National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). However, the Indian government believes that Pakistan isn’t doing much, still.
NACTA, which monitors emergence and re-emergence of terror outfits, has so far, listed 69 organisations and their splinter outfits which have been notified as proscribed under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. It must be noted, however, that both groups are still on the watch-list of NACTA despite Pakistan banning JuD and FIF.
Moreover, days after Pakistan banned JuD and FIF, both outfits underwent a name change, calling themselves “Al Madina” and “Aisar Foundation”, respectively, in order to remain active, according to a report by Pakistan’s Daily Times.
In India, among the 41 terrorist outfits banned by the Home Ministry, almost half are allegedly either based in or sponsored by Pakistan. Among these, some are observed to have re-emerged with a new name.
Sometimes, Pakistan itself lifted the bans. A common case with most of the banned outfits is that despite facing a ban, they are active.
The Terror Trio: JuD, FIF and LeT
Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a terrorist outfit headed by Hafiz Saeed, was banned last year. However, the ban was lifted later. This in turn led to high decibel objections from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that had already listed the JuD as a terror organisation in December 2008.
The outfit is believed to be a front for the LeT which was formed by Saeed in 1987 and came to existence after the LeT was banned. Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation is further believed to be the front for JuD, formed to continue its operations.
Last year in February 2018, Pakistan's then president Mamnoon Hussain had promulgated an ordinance amending the country's Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 to declare JuD and FIF as banned terror outfits.
Pakistan also banned other outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Pasban-e-Ahle- Hadith and Pasban-e-Kashmir in 2018. The Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) issued a notice freezing the assets of JuD and LeT and also prohibited donation collection by them in the same year.
Later, the ordinance lapsed and it was neither extended nor tabled in parliament to make it an Act under Imran Khan, who was elected prime minister in August 2018.
On Hafiz Saeed’s challenge to the ordinance, the Lahore High Court refused to extend the period of his confinement. Eventually, Pakistan lifted the ban on the JuD and FIF in October 2018 and put both on the watch-list of NACTA. Subsequently, Saeed was released in November 2018.
Saeed had earlier been placed under house arrest since January 2017, after the Pakistan government launched a crackdown on JuD. At the time, the group renamed itself as Tehreek-e-Azadi Jammu and Kashmir (TAJK). TAJK was also banned by NACTA in June 2017.
The LeT which is believed to be the parent organisation of JuD and claimed responsibility for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, has diddled between getting banned and unbanned at regular intervals.
Even while the NACTA banned LeT as early as May 2008, the outfit continues to carry out terror strikes in the state of Jammu and Kashmir even now.
Besides JuD, other major outfits banned by Pakistan included Laskar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Sipah-i -Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). Most of these outfits have carried out terror attacks inside Pakistan, killing thousands.
In March 2018, a PEW Research Centre study, which was published by Pakistan’s English Daily Dawn, said, “Pakistanis are always more unfavourable than favourable towards terrorist groups, including those that strike Pakistan (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) as well as those that strike other nations (LeT and al-Qaeda).”
The survey, ‘Do Pakistanis hold a favourable view of the Lashkar-e-Taiba?’ found out that the views of the respondents towards LeT “tend to be slightly more favourable than their views towards the TTP”. For instance, according to the Pew Global Attitudes poll in Pakistan in 2015, 14 per cent of respondents recorded favourable views of the LeT, relative to 9 per cent of those who reported favourable views towards the TTP.
Masood Azhar: The Man India Let Go
US State Department had also designated Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as a terrorist organisation in 2001. Its chief, Masood Azhar, tops the most-wanted list of Indian agencies after his role in the Parliament attacks in December 2001.
Azhar is also the mastermind of the deadliest terror attack ever carried out in Jammu and Kashmir, after his outfit claimed the responsibility for the suicide bomb attack in Pulwama, in which 40 CRPF men were killed.
JeM has an illustrious history of attacking India, which includes the Pathankot airbase attack (2016) in which seven security personnel and a civilian were killed. It also claimed responsibility for at least 10 other terror attacks in which IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) were used in various regions of J&K in 2018.
Pakistan has banned JeM twice, and even though the outfit remains banned since January 2002, it continues to be actively involved in terror attacks.
In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, the three permanent veto-wielding members — US, UK and France -- have submitted a proposal at UNSC to designate Azhar a global terrorist and ban his outfit. Earlier, Russia had also supported to ban JeM, but China, a close ally of Pakistan, has repeatedly obstructed the process.
Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Thursday that Masood Azhar is in Pakistan but no action can be taken unless India presents "solid" and "inalienable" evidence that can stand in a court of law.
"He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is unwell to the extent that he can't leave his house, because he's really unwell. If they have solid, inalienable evidence that is acceptable to courts of Pakistan, share it with us so that we can convince the people and we can convince the independent judiciary of Pakistan," Qureshi was quoted as saying by CNN.
However, India has provided proof against JeM’s involvement in terror attacks several times.
Bleeding Kashmir: Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkatul Mujahideen
The Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM) have reportedly indulged in terror activities in J&K at the behest of Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Yet, Pakistan refuses to ban the organisations and deny to have any associations with it.
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was founded by a Kashmir Master Ahsan Dar in 1989. It was reportedly formed as the militant wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Kashmir and Pakistan, to counter the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which had advocated complete independence of the state.
On February 28, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) banned Jamaat-e-Islami under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged anti-national and subversive activities. Senior police officers told News18, the Jamaat has “actively been fuelling militancy”.
Its militant wing, Hizbul Mujahideen was designated as a terror outfit by the US State Department in July 2017.
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, also known as Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), is a Pakistan-based terrorist group involved in cross-border terrorism. HuM was categorised as a terrorist outfit by the US in 1997 following reports that it was linked with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Since its inception, HuM has been renamed five times. Now it is active as a new entity, Jaish-e-Mohammad-Mujahiddin-e-Tazeem.
Pakistan’s Menace: Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
US had designated the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) as a terrorist group in January 2003 and the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in September 2010. LeJ and TTP are enlisted as banned in the document of NACTA since February 2003 and July 2011, respectively. Still, LeJ has been active spreading terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Reportedly, both LeJ and TTP have also been linked with global terrorist organisation like ISIS.
The most brutal attack by TTP occurred in Pakistan’s Peshawar in December 2014, leaving at least 132 children dead at an Army run school. TTP carried out this attack in revenge to army offensive in North Waziristan.