A top leader of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party said on Wednesday that members of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Jaish-e-Mohammed cannot be prosecuted because the “state has been involved” in their activities.
Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah, who has often been criticised for his links with militant groups such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba, made the remarks during an interview with BBC Urdu. He was responding to a question on action being taken against “pro-establishment and anti-India groups” active in Punjab, the country’s most populous province.
“By pro-establishment groups if you mean JuD and JeM, then let me tell you that they have been declared proscribed organisations and have no permission to carry out their activities,” he said.
“As far as prosecuting these people is concerned, when the state has been involved in their activities, on that basis can you prosecute them?”
Sanaullah’s comments come at a time when the federal government is heading towards a possible confrontation with the army’s high command. Observers said his remarks pointed fingers at the military, which is believed to be patronising a number of anti-India militant groups.
India has for long accused Pakistan of cracking down only on militant groups that carry out attacks within the country while turning a blind eye to the activities of organisations such as the JuD and JeM.
Both JuD, described by the US and UN as a front for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, and JeM have a strong presence in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. The JuD has been blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks while India has accused the JeM of attacking the Pathankot airbase in January.
Interpol on Tuesday issued a fresh Red Corner Notice for JeM chief Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar in connection with the Pathankot attack. A similar notice was issued in 2002 for Azhar’s alleged involvement in the attack on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly. A warrant is pending against Asghar in connection with the hijacking of an Indian airliner in 1999.
Sanaullah was also asked about south Punjab’s links to militancy but he contended that the whole of Pakistan was plagued by extremism. “The impression that south Punjab is the hub of militancy is not correct,” he said.
The JeM is among the groups that have a strong presence in south Punjab.
After a suicide attack at Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal on Easter that killed more than 70 people, authorities in Punjab carried out more than 10,000 intelligence-based operations and questioned more than 50,000 people, Sanaullah said.
Defending the government’s actions against militants, he said, “More suspects have been arrested and prosecuted in Punjab than any other province.”