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ISLAMABAD/WAH: Being much more forthcoming than usual, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Tuesday named certain banned organisations which, he said, were using the name of a middle-eastern terror group that had no actual footprint in the country.

Reiterating his stance that the militant Islamic State group — also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh — did not have a foothold in Pakistan, he said that terrorists from proscribed organisations had rallied under the IS banner.

For example, he said, that when terrorists using the Daesh name were picked up from Daska, they were found to be associated with Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaatud Dawa. In Sindh, he said, the Hizb-i-Islami group had been using the IS name.

There are around 45 terrorist organisations operating in Pakistan and some of them are using the Daesh name, he said, adding that, “These [groups] are on the [radar] of intelligence and security agencies”.

Minister claims PPP let Maulana Abdul Aziz off the hook

He also revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would soon send New Delhi a formal request, seeking permission for a special investigation team — looking into suspected Pakistani links in the attack on Pathankot airbase — to visit India.

Lal Masjid accusation

Ostensibly aiming to deflect the pressure that had been building on him to act against Maulana Abdul Aziz — the former Lal Masjid cleric — the minister accused the PPP of having colluded with the controversial prayer leader.

Talking to reporters after inaugurating a Rescue 1122 centre in Wah Cantt, he said that Aziz had been acquitted in as many as 31 cases when the PPP was in power. These acquittals were based on weak investigation and prosecution, as pointed out by the lower courts.

“This only means collusion,” he remarked, adding that these included around a dozen cases of a serious nature, including kidnapping for ransom and murder. No appeals challenging these acquittals were filed with the superior courts either, he said.

These included eight cases of criminal intimidation, registered under Section 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code, but the police had the cases dropped by insisting that Maulana Aziz had never met the plaintiffs. “This is the height of hypocrisy,” he said.

He also pointed out that Maulana Aziz’s nephew had been appointed Lal Masjid’s prayer leader by the PPP government and the cleric himself was given official police protection, which was withdrawn by the current government.

But PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, who had submitted a privilege motion against the minister in the Senate on the same issue, disagreed with the minister’s recollection of events.

“The minister, on Dec 30, 2015, had denied the existence of any case against Aziz before the Senate. The words he uttered can be checked from the verbatim record of the day were to the effect: ‘Those who insist on taking action against Aziz should contact me and give me evidence’. It was in response to this that copies of the FIRs were sent to the Interior Ministry,” Mr Babar told Dawn.

Apparently backtracking from the stance he had taken in parliament, the minister said he had never stated that there were no FIRs against Maulana Aziz. He repeated that “action would be taken against Aziz if he breaks the law and if there is any proof against him, it should be brought forward”.

Mr Babar also disputed the minister’s claim about the PPP colluding with Maulana Aziz. “The cases against Aziz — except the more recent ones — were filed during the Musharraf days. The investigations, collection of evidence and trial started during the Musharraf days. Neither the investigators nor the judges were PPP appointees.”

He also claimed it was a well-known fact that Maulana Aziz enjoyed police security well into the current PML-N government, until public hue and cry became too loud and it had to be withdrawn.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2016