Lahore: At the site of the collapsed building at Sundar Industrial Estate, on November 4, 2015, the volunteers of Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s (JuD) charity wing, Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF), was activity pursuing rescue work along with the army and Rescue 1122. Outside Jinnah Hospital, FIF had also set up a help-desk to facilitate the families of the victims in locating their injured or dead relatives. FIF served meal and water to the doctors and nurses on duty. All this happened while the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, (PEMRA) had issued notices to media houses to stop giving any coverage to both JuD and FIF, in line with the international practice, to consider these organizations as proscribed.
On the face of it, this order shows the seriousness of the government to deal with the religious organizations blamed for their ideological tilt towards terrorism, in reality it is an eyewash, say experts.
Zahid Hussain, a veteran analyst whose book the Scorpion Tail is considered a seminal work on militancy in Pakistan does not see the airtime ban on JuD as a promising decision. He told News Lens Pakistan that it will add more brownie points to the organization’s existing fame among the masses.
“If JuD chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, is allowed to give anti-Indian and anti-state sermons during Friday prayers, if he is allowed to stage rallies in support of Kashmir, if the curriculum taught in his seminaries promotes extremism, and if his involvement in the so-called Jihad in Kashmir remains intact through LeT, then merely banning him or his organization from appearing on media does not make much sense,” says Hussain.
The government, he says, has to put a complete ban on the activities of JuD and its affiliated charity organizations either by curtailing their Jihadi agenda or by overhauling their system that promotes and encourages extremism.
This is not the first time that PEMRA has issued notices to private TV channels to deny coverage to the banned organizations. Since 2001, lists after lists have been handed down to the channels to keep the proscribed organizations from airing their views on TV.
Law in Pakistan prohibits media from promoting the activities of banned outfits, especially Taliban militants, say the legal scholars say.
“Section 11(W) of the Anti-terrorism Act 1997 defines the role of the media in relation to printing publishing or disseminating material aimed at inciting hatred or coverage of any person convicted or involved in terror-related activities. The law stipulates a maximum six months imprisonment.
As early as July this year, the government had categorically stated that it would not ban JuD since the organization is not linked to terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
When asked as to what took the government so long to ban the JuD, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Federal Minister for information, says that we have to move gradually against things that are detrimental to the legitimacy and survival of Pakistan. He adds that Pakistan had international pressure and being the signatory of the United Nations Charter the government was obliged to concede to United Nation Security Council’s (UNSC) Resolution 1267 that bans JuD.
“As a minister of information I have no qualms in saying that I have followed in letter and spirit the international consensus on denying media access to JuD and its affiliated organization,” says Pervaz Rashid.
When asked why the government did not completely ban the activities of JuD and close down its seminaries, Rashid exposed government’s ambiguous policy in dealing with the banned religious organization, by saying that it was the job of the interior ministry to decide.
We were left to wonder if the government is working in cohesion to implement the National Action Plan or it is, giving a half-hearted treatment to the process. This approach leaves a question mark on the seriousness of the government to eliminate the ideology of the terrorists.
According to the media reports, approximately 500 winning independent candidates in the local body election from Punjab had the support of the banned organizations. If this raises question on the methodology of scrutiny of the Election Commission of Pakistan, it also smacks of government’s sympathies with the banned organizations, according to the report.
Until the Peshawar Army School massacre, Pakistan has been reluctant to include JuD on its list of proscribed organizations. Pakistan’s successive governments have been accused internationally of following the policy of good and bad Taliban, which according to the security experts provided ample space to organizations like the Haqqani Network and JuD to operate with impunity from Pakistan against their perceived enemies such as India and the US in Afghanistan.
The United Nations Security Council banned JuD in 2008 as part of Resolution 1267, which was adopted on October 15, 1999, is about sanctions on “Al-Qaeda and associated individuals and entities. The UNSC listed JuD as allies of the proscribed LeT considered as having close links to Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
Pakistan place JuD under observation in SRO dated 15 November 2003. During 2008-10, all its offices were closed down but the Lahore High Court granted relief to the party.
Talking about Hafiz Saeed and his relevance in Pakistan, veteran security analyst Brigadier (r) Farooq Hameed told News Lens Pakistan, that Hafiz Saeed’s support to the Kashmir cause made him dear to the people of Pakistan. He added that JuD and FIF had won the heart and minds of the people through their welfare and charity work. According to him, Pakistan has banned JuD not because it has carried out militant activities inside Pakistan. The government he said was simply responding to the US and United Nation’s sentiments.
“As far as I am concerned there is no reason why JuD should have been banned. Why should we support the US or UN point of view which is Indian driven? I fully support Hafiz Saeed for his anti-Indian stance and support for the Muslims in Kashmir, my point of view is further strengthened on the anti-Muslims and anti-Pakistani stance of Modi, and BJP’s militant wing, Shiv Sinnah. The government may have banned the organization but neither the people nor any court in the country has ever indicted Hafiz Saeed, says Hameed.
JuD and its charity organization FIF has earned laurels across Pakistan. The organization runs five hospitals, 200 dispensaries, a fleet of ambulances and 250 schools across Pakistan. During the devastating earthquake of 2005 in Kashmir and Northern Area, it was JuD that could first provided relief to the stranded people in the difficult terrains of these areas.
Even NATO, according to Deputy Secretary, Jamaat-e-Islami, Farid Paracha, could not reach in time in spite of all the technologies at its disposal. He condemned Pakistan government’s attempt to put a ban on the media coverage of JuD’s welfare activities and said that JuD had no links with LeT
Zahid Hussain says that it is a complete farce that LeT is not part of JuD. A charity work that provides cover to the militant activities cannot be called welfare activities.
In its defence the spokesperson of JuD, Nadeem Ahmed said that the government had banned JuD under the pressure of India and the US.
“Within Pakistan not a single FIR is registered against the organization. We are working for the welfare of the state and have not done anything illegal or unconstitutional,” said Ahmed