KARACHI: The Sindh police have proposed to the provincial government to place the names of more than 90 seminaries in different cities and districts under the fourth schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) to monitor their ‘affairs’ and ‘other’ activities due to their suspected terror links, it emerged on Sunday.

The proposal came days after the Sindh government directed the law enforcement agencies to crack down on drug dealers and seminaries which had links with terrorists or banned outfits.

It interestingly also incorporated the provincial government’s decision to register all immigrants living in the metropolis, including slum areas, and on its outskirts and develop their complete database and constituted 15 teams to launch this exercise.

“This move will help us in keeping an eye on these seminaries which are suspected for their links and activities,” Additional IG of Counter-Terrorism Department Sanaullah Abbasi told Dawn. “All these seminaries are marked after their geotagging across the province and analysis and audit of their finances to trace the source of their funding and spending in line with the National Action Plan initiatives, which requires the database of all madressahs operating across the country.”

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in October, 2016 was briefed during a meeting that around 93 seminaries in the province had solid links with terrorists or banned outfits. The intelligence agencies had gathered credible information about activities at these places on which the chief minister had directed the Rangers and police to start an operation against them.

However, the police authorities believed that before moving to any final crackdown, which could take time, there was an immediate need to keep an eye on all these facilities which required a legal cover and backing from political administration as well.

“Under this arrangement [placing 93 seminaries under fourth schedule] we would be able to do our work more confidently,” said Additional IG CTD Sanaullah Abbasi. “The formula used to place any individual under the fourth schedule is applied here while proposing to treat these 93 seminaries the same way. It’s all done to make our work more effective.”

The fourth schedule is a section of the ATA under which someone who is suspected of terrorism is kept under observation; it is mandatory for him to register his attendance with the local police regularly.

Also, the fourth schedule comprises elements found to be or suspected to be involved in anti-state activities, delivering hate speeches and/or activists of religious outfits not yet banned, but related with militancy in any way.

“It would not be a new phenomenon if the government places seminaries or any other institution or facility under the fourth schedule,” said Advocate Mohammed Farooq, senior criminal lawyer.

“The law allows the government to place individual, institution, facility or anything which is suspected of terrorism or facilitating terrorism under the fourth schedule of the ATA.”

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2016