An event organised by Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat in Chakwal at the weekend showed how banned groups continue to advertise their presence in the country and how the local administration does not want to or is not able to block their activities.

As per the usual practice, the proscribed group was given full freedom to announce its meeting, and a news report noted how the busy squares in the city were decorated with ASWJ banners in the run-up to the meeting.

Read: Banned outfit operates with impunity in Chakwal

A local official said it was not the ASWJ but its ‘parent’ body, the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, that had been banned.

He was wrong. Both he and the state need to go over the list of banned groups once more before they allow themselves the innocence with which they approach this very serious matter.

Also read: Three more religious groups banned

As things stand, the moment an organisation is given the title of ‘proscribed’, it is seemingly freed from any control or oversight by the state.

A banned outfit assumes the status of a force that instils fear in everyone around. It is a group which cannot be challenged and that is above reproach. There may be a change in name, but that’s about all the adjustment needed.

The proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammad took up a new identity as Tehreek-i-Khuddam-ul-Islam and Lashkar-e-Taiba was renamed Jamaatud Dawa; in essence though they retain their original character. The sameness of ideology, leadership and ranks in the new groups that have emerged from the embers of the old ones, should negate any impression that they are different.

Also read: Banned group holds rally in Muzaffarabad

It then becomes very clear that unless strict measures are put in place to disperse the ranks of such groups and to put curbs on the activities of their leadership, a common past and shared objectives will reunite them.

Any exercise in banning an organisation would be of cosmetic value unless there are legal provisions, as well as a willing government, to stop individuals — the leaders of the group — from resorting to hate-mongering in the name of ideology.

Published in Dawn January 8th , 2014

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