Crackdown on Punjab outlawed groups; JeM men among arrested
Last Updated: Monday, July 12, 2010, 20:04
Islamabad: Rattled by the horrific attack on a revered Sufi shrine, Pakistani police have launched a major crackdown on outlawed groups in southern Punjab, considered a base for the Punjabi Taliban, and arrested about 170 activists, including Jaish-e-Mohammad men.

The "unannounced police operation" against proscribed organisations began last night, The News daily reported.

Police conducted raids in Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Layyah districts and arrested some 170 activists of Sunni sectarian groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

During the operation, 22 offices of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, a notorious anti-Shia group, were sealed. The Sipah-e-Sahaba is allegedly operating under the new name of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat.

The operation also targeted facilities and members of the banned groups in Lahore, Multan, Sahiwal, Khanewal, Jhang, Bhakkar, Gujrat, Vehari, Rawalpindi and other cities. The arrested activists were taken to unknown locations.

Allama Ahmad Ludhianvi, chief of the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, condemned the arrests.

In a statement, he said, "preparations were afoot to play a heinous game across the country at the behest of foreign forces".

He said the unjustified arrest of his party's workers had created an environment of tension and the government's steps had provoked activists.

"I have asked the government to identify terrorists in my party and they would be handed over to the authorities," he said.

Ludhianvi urged activists of his party to exercise restraint.

During the raids in Bahawalpur district, six activists of the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Millat-e-Islami and Jaish-e-Muhammad were arrested. Seven and five activists were arrested in Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalnagar respectively.

Bahawalnagar district police chief Mehboob Rashid confirmed the arrest of five activists. More arrests are expected, he said.

Pakistan's military and intelligence set-up had recently sent a strong message to the PML-N-led government in Punjab to crack down on banned sectarian and extremist groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

JeM was founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, who was freed by India in exchange for passengers on the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999.


First Published: Monday, July 12, 2010, 20:04

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