WASHINGTON, Nov 16: Welcoming Pakistan’s decision to ban three militant groups that had regrouped under new names, the United States said on Sunday that changing names “does not change the nature of an organization.”
The comments by a State Department official, however, indicated some differences between the US and Pakistan on cross-border infiltrations in Kashmir and between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the regrouping of Taliban forces along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. “This certainly is a welcome step. Changing the name certainly does not change the nature of any of these groups,” a State Department spokesman told Dawn while commenting on the ban slapped on Saturday.
The official noted that in the announcement issued in Islamabad, the government of Pakistan pledged that “no militant or sectarian organization will be allowed to function in Pakistan.” This, the State Department official said, was a step in the right direction and “we are happy that the Pakistani government has taken this step.”
The ban came two days after the US ambassador to Pakistan voiced concern over the re-emergence of the militant groups.
When asked if the United States was worried that Pakistan was not doing enough to fight terrorism, the State Department official said: “We have no reason to believe that Pakistan was not cooperating.”
Reminded of a recent statement by Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah that Pakistan was allowing remnants of the Taliban to regroup, the official said: “We have been working with both Afghanistan and Pakistan in action against groups along the border. We continue to encourage them to work together.”
The official, however, expressed concern at cross-border infiltrations in Kashmir where India says that Pakistan is sending militants to carry out attacks against Indian targets.
“We say that infiltration in Kashmir is continuing and it is important that it stops,” he said.
Indicating that there are differences between Pakistan and the United States on this issue, the official said: “This is a subject of continuing discussion between Pakistan and the United States.”
The official said that the talks between US officials and Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar in Washington earlier this week were “part of continuing senior level dialogue” between the two countries.
“We continue to cooperate very closely with Pakistan, one of our closest ally in the global war on terrorism,” he added.
The US media, meanwhile, prominently displayed the news of the ban and most reports also pointed out that “Pakistan is an ally in the US-led war on terror.”
Both the Washington Post and Washington Times reported that one of the three groups banned on Sunday was a militant outfit fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region and the two other organizations were involved in domestic sectarian violence.
Both the reports also noted that last year Pakistan banned five militant groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-i-Taiba, in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament on Dec 13 of the same year.
The new orders banned Khuddam-ul-Islam, formerly Jaish-e-Mohammed, and outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Muslim Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan groups that have also regrouped under new names, the reports said.