Crackdown on Punjab outlawed groups; JeM men among arrested

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.

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.

PTI

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