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Maulana Asmatullah Muawiya.—AP/File
Maulana Asmatullah Muawiya.—AP/File

THE Islamabad High Court’s decision to suspend the detention of Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, does not mean the former senior commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba will be a completely free man. In addition to the IHC’s decision of not allowing him to leave Islamabad, he is also bound, as a prominent member of a jihadi organisation, to adhere to the relevant sections of Pakistan’s anti-terror law (1997 amended 2002): most notably sections 11-E, -EE and -EEE. The onus for this lies on the government, but if past experience is any guide this is unlikely to happen.

In this regard, the most prominent recent case is that of Maulana Asmatullah Muawiya — head of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Punjab — who announced in September that he and his faction would no longer carry out attacks in Pakistan. A day after this was met with scepticism, Muawiya actually did follow through on his declaration and surrendered to military officials in Miramshah in North Waziristan.

Also read: Punjabi Taliban give up ‘armed struggle’

The immediate reaction from our frenzied TV channels was remarkably understated; just a couple of lines on how this showed the success of the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb operation. Little was said on the background of the man in question, and almost nothing on the nature of the deal that led to Muawiya becoming one of the ‘good’ Taliban.

For that is exactly what he had become as a later Taliban video illustrated. It also explained how Muawiya would now devote his resources to fighting Nato forces in Afghanistan, as well as being involved in ‘Dawah and Tableegh’ in Pakistan. Security and legal experts point out that, even for an ordinary surrendering militant, these should have been impossible as the above-mentioned ATA sections describe how the government is supposed to deal with banned organisations and their members involved in acts of terrorism. For a start, as ‘security for good behaviour’, the names of such persons will be put on a list known as the fourth schedule.

During the period that they are on the list, the law states that the militants are prohibited from travelling outside their neighbourhood. In addition, they must not visit public places (a detailed list is provided) and must not participate in or even attend public meetings — like Dawah and Tableegh. The law states that once a person’s name is placed on the schedule, it cannot be removed before sixty days, and that too if the government judges that the person has been rehabilitated. Generally, a name is not removed from the schedule before a period of 12 months.

Putting this in the context of Muawiya, it is a source of astonishment to those who have followed his career that the ATA limitations have not been prescribed for him. What was even more amazing was that no one stood up to question that — having being rather generously pardoned — Muawiya has been allowed to carry on his activities.

For Muawiya is no ordinary militant. Perhaps more than any other in recent times, he has been singularly responsible for the rise in militant violence in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Red Mosque siege. In particular, he is said to have laid the ideological ground for making the military and security forces the number one target for the militants.

From the GHQ attack, to Kamra, to the suicide bombing of ISI buses in Rawalpindi, the Manawan siege in Lahore and numerous targeted attacks on top security personnel, Muawiya’s name has been on the top of the list of those responsible. In addition, investigators point out that evidence collected in attacks on civilian targets, such as the Moon market attack in Lahore in 2009, also point to the involvement of the Punjabi Taliban.

Even if one accepts that Muawiya has truly renounced violence (which he hasn’t as he himself declared that anything outside Pakistan — especially in India or Afghanistan — was fair game in his surrender video) the fact that he was actively engaged in anti-Pakistan militant activities till September 2014 means his mindset is unlikely to have changed.

Letting an ideologue like Muawiya freely roam the country indulging in his brand of proselytising, a much watered-down version of which we have heard through Maulana Abdul Aziz, raises huge questions on the practical steps being taken to control militant leaders and facilitators. Such actions can only dent the credentials of those calling the Peshawar attacks a game-changer for the country.

According to the Punjab police, there are nearly 40,000 Taliban and sectarian militants active in the province. Only 2,000 of these have been placed on the fourth schedule; the reason many point out is the continuing close relation between many in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s and the mainstay of extremism in the Punjab, the Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat formerly known as the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan.

Recent events regarding the treatment of undertrial or detained high-profile militant leaders have once again illustrated this. Apart from Lakhvi’s case, there is the matter of Malik Ishaq, founder and head of Pakistan’s deadliest Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) militant group.

On Dec 23, a Lahore High Court bench held a review on his detention.

Ishaq, who was been released in 2011 after being acquitted in dozens of murder cases pending against him, has only been in detention since March 2014. This is despite the fact that his release eerily coincides with the rise in sectarian and militant attacks by the feared LJ. While he was placed on the fourth schedule, the militant leader was easily able to move around and address public gatherings for two years before being detained.

With banned terrorist organisations repeatedly allowed to operate freely across the country with slightly altered names, the government needs to ensure that such outfits — and their leaders — feel the full force of the ATA’s strictest sections. It’s about time that the party ends for the militants. Period.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2014

Comments (23) Closed

krishna prasad Dec 30, 2014 07:21am

Maintaining double standards by the state and center concerning terrorists means inviting more problems to the country and public. Any acts committed within and outside from now on should have serious after-effects both from the pakistani society and the world watching the game. It is a loser mindset overall and destructive attitude at the least.

catherine Dec 30, 2014 07:39am

And you wonder why the west, including the rest of the world criticises Pakistan........This article tells you exactly why.

Arun Dec 30, 2014 08:07am

I mourn for the killed children less now...I guess its human

Erik Dec 30, 2014 08:18am

@catherine This is not a one-sided game. Indians need to stop supporting TTP and other terrorist groups like BLA and Jundulla. Terrorism will only end in this region when all countries work with sincerity.

Shivaji Dec 30, 2014 08:24am

Lakhvi's bail condition restricts him in his movement,therefore one may say that he is confined by geographical boundary. No hours of restrictions has been placed upon him. The terms of his release order does not restrict him from possessing or using Cell phone or meeting others to plan an attack against Pakistan,India,the USA,Afghanistan or Britain Making or teaching bomb making or carrying weapons These are some of the issues the State Counsel or the Judge failed to consider

Akshya Dec 30, 2014 08:30am

Wow...pakistani people give so much thought to dealing with terrorists?

saeed Dec 30, 2014 09:04am

we created these terrorists and some of them are now attacking us, as long as we are not fair in our polices it will keep happening

Sarah Dec 30, 2014 09:46am

@Erik Stop blaming rest of world for problems created by your own people in TTP and other banned group in Pakistan.India has its own set of problem and has nothing to do with same.

Sayyar Khan Dec 30, 2014 09:52am

Only Punjabi are let go no action is taken against them no military operations like the ones in KPK or Baluchistan will ever take place in Punjab. Simple 90% military is from Punjab 100% of PML-N vote bank is Punjab.

Khan-Haqiqi Dec 30, 2014 10:20am

Punjabi Taliban are good Taliban no operation in Punjab as they are the only patriotic Pakistanis but the fact is the amount of destruction Punjabi Taliban, Punjabi Bureucrasy and Punjabi defence officials has brought to Pakistan no one else did

Amarnath Dec 30, 2014 10:22am

Syed Shoiab Hasan, thanks for this very informative article. this information is exactly what has filled the gap in my understanding.... which was previously a vague/hazy narrative of "Pakistan's good militants".

thanks again!

Leo Dec 30, 2014 10:24am

same old crap good taliban bad taliban boring !!!!

BRR Dec 30, 2014 10:35am

For all the murder and mayhem caused by him, he is never prosecuted, never held accountable, and roams free. Such is the culture that breeds people like him.

M Rafique Dec 30, 2014 10:53am

It is to re call Mr. Shahbaz Sharif being sitting chief minister of Punjab, once stated "Bhie Punjab ko tu choher do" after a attack by these terrorists. It means he has maintaining some sort of relationship with such group and one of his minister has reputation of having relation with these people

Hamid- Pakistan Dec 30, 2014 12:24pm

This article says a lot about Pak policies. We have re-invent our basic polices toward terrorism. Honesty, sincereity and dedication are the key factors.

Shazzay Dec 30, 2014 12:40pm

I am planning to leave Pakistan and never to come back because NOT a single thing has changed since last 15 years and i m witnessing Bloodshed everywhere in the name or religion.

Umar Dec 30, 2014 02:32pm

@Sarah don't close your eyes.... don't you know how these terrorists becomes terrorists now, when they were "jehadis" once, and working for foreign countries on their agenda for their so called vested/ national interest. You make them and they play for you and then you leave them, without owning them.... how comfortable for you....

Akram Dec 30, 2014 02:36pm

the justice system is clearly not able to cope with these militants and their methods of threatening judges and the like. Therefore the PM is correct in allowing a limited time period for military courts to deal with these militants properly. In time we need a more robust justice system that can deal with such issues. But this will take time and money to put in place, until then the military courts are the only means to immediately deal with such trouble makers.

Grafello Dec 30, 2014 05:54pm

So in effect we can say 'no policy change as regard the country.' Grand, so no hope for the future even. SAD!

Mulazim hussain Dec 30, 2014 07:31pm

I 100 % agree with the views of the writer. The army and others law enforcing agencies must think of the threats from these terrorists. Moreover PMLN should stop patronizing the terrorist organizations.

Hammad Bin Khalid Dec 31, 2014 08:55am

anyone who wants to give up arms should be appreciated and yes he should be allowed freedom of movement but the agency's should keep a check on the individual

Bindu Bhai Dec 31, 2014 11:46am

If invited shivsaina can get rid of all terrorists in a week it shows secularism working in India that over 200 million muslims can for the greater part live in peace Pakistan should learn to live with minorities in peace hanging the terrorists is a step in the right direction we can win Noble prizes together make movies together why can't we get rid of terrorists together

Hyder Jan 01, 2015 12:10pm

@catherine The west is the reason we r in this mess caught in a proxy war of US which turned into internal war