ISLAMABAD: The number of proscribed outfits has swelled to 79 after the first addition in the list of terrorist organisations in four years.

The latest addition to the list, the Zainebiyoun Brigade (ZB), is a militant group which was designated by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation in 2019.

The decision to ban Zainebiyoun Brigade was notified after escalation of tensions with Iran in January and implemented on March 29.

Seen by observers as a move by Islamabad to appease Washington, while others speculate this was done to win favour with Riyadh, whose foreign minister visited Pakistan recently.

According to security analyst Mohammad Amir Rana, the Zainebiyoun Brigade is believed to have been involved in supplying weapons to the IRGC in the Middle East.

Last month, reports emerged of alleged Zainebiyoun members of Pakistani origin being apprehended in international waters for carrying weapons to be given to the IRGC in the Middle East.

In another incident, the death of a Pakistan-origin commander in Syria affiliated with the group paved the way for Pakistan to ban it. Pakistani law-enforcement agencies are believed to have sufficient proof of the Zainebiyoun Brigade`s involvement in sectarian violence in the country and recruitment for the Iraq and Syria conflict, but the government had not acted earlier because of circumstances linked to the alleged presence of Baloch insurgents on Iranian soil.

The loyalty of its members, who prioritise ideological affiliations over national ties, also remains a major challenge for security institutions.

Formed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) after a civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, the Zainebiyoun Brigade, also known as Liwa Zainebiyoun, is charged with mobilising Pakistani Shias to fight forces opposed to Syrian ruler Bashar Al Assad, a close ally of Tehran and Moscow.

The Brigade has acknowledged ties with the Quds Force since around the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, and its formation was announced in 2014 during the conflict in Syria. It recently pledged its readiness to follow orders from the IRGC.

The process of maintaining a list of proscribed organisations started on Aug 14, 2001, when Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Mohammad Pakistan were outlawed.

Later, the government banned Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Tehreek-i-Islami and Tehreek-i-Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi on Jan 14, 2002.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

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