ISLAMABAD, Jan 15: The police have arrested more than 1,900 activists in the first four days of a sweeping crackdown on extremist religious groups, officials said here on Tuesday.

“Police have detained over 1,900 activists mainly from the five banned groups in all four provinces and the federal capital since the crackdown started,” a top interior ministry official told AFP.

Five organisations were outlawed by President Pervez Musharraf in a landmark address to the nation on Saturday.

“Police have sealed 600 offices of the banned groups and confiscated their literature,” the official said.

“Instructions have already been issued to the central state bank to freeze the accounts of these outfits.”

Police have also detained activists from fundamentalist organisations involved in violent protests over the government’s decision to join the international coalition against terrorism, the official said.

M. Ismail Khan adds from Peshawar: Over 300 activists of the banned sectarian and Jihadi organisations have been rounded up in the NWFP, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

“We have gone after activists who had a known history of trouble-making, disruption, disobedience and road-blocks,” NWFP secretary home & tribal affairs, Javed Iqbal told said.

He said 321 activists of the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Tehrik-i-Jafria Pakistan, Jaish-i-Muhammad, Lashkar-i-Taiba and Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi had been picked up and booked under the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO).

“We have gone for the frontline, secondary and tertiary. We are not going after the foot soldiers,” he said.

Majority of those arrested were from the TNSM, the secretary said. He put the figure of the TNSM arrests at 195.

The TNSM was behind a bloody revolt against the state authority in 1994 when its activists seized control of the government buildings, civilian airport and police stations in an attempt to enforce Shariat in Malakand division.

Javed said those arrested would be tried under cases already filed against them on various occasions in the past.

He said that the TNSM chief, Maulana Sufi Mohammad now in detention under the Frontier Crimes Regulation at a jail Dera Ismail Khan would be tried under the cases filed against him in Malakand division on different occasions. He said that the police in Malakand division. “We are not going to let him off just like that,” he remarked.

The TNSM chief led thousands of followers to Afghanistan to fight in support of the Taliban in October last. Sufi Muhammad returned with a handful of supporters, and was arrested and sent to jail.

Thousands of TNSM activists were hunted down and killed in Afghanistan, hundreds others are unaccounted for, while an unknown number are prisoners in Afghanistan.—AFP

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