Pakistan’s interior ministry apparently scuttled a move to outlaw the Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), a front for the group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, overruling the country’s key anti-terror authority that had put the so-called charity on a list of “terrorist organisations”.
The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) updated its list of banned militant and extremist groups on December 31 but the document was removed from the organisation’s website soon after a visit to Pakistan by US Secretary of State John Kerry in mid-January.
The updated list had 72 organisations, including JuD and its front organisation Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation, which was created after Pakistan imposed some restrictions on JuD after the terrorist assault on Mumbai that killed 166 people.
Twelve groups in the updated list, including the JuD and Haqqani network, were included in keeping with Pakistan’s obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1267. The UN used this resolution to ban the JuD as a front of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) after the Mumbai attacks.
Days after this list was posted on NACTA’s website, it was removed, sources said. Currently, the site only has a message that says: “Updated website under construction.”
Screengrab of NACTA website.
However, the website’s parent directory is still active and using internet protocols. Hindustan Times accessed what are two lists of banned groups, one whose file name describes it as “old” and another that is the newer and updated list including the JuD and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation.
Partial list of banned groups described as 'old' by NACTA’s website.
NACTA's updated list of banned militant and extremist groups.
In February, several Pakistani media outlets, including the leading Geo News channel, had reported that interior secretary Shahid Khan had slapped NACTA Director Fazal Majid during a meeting in the interior ministry for posting the list of banned groups on NACTA’s website.
According to these reports, Majid had asked the NACTA director why the list had been made public. Khan had reportedly responded that a notification of banned groups had been issued and the list had thus become a public record which could be published on the website.
In the old list, the JuD is not among the banned groups and is only listed in a separate section for “Enlisted under observation second schedule UNSCR 1267”. In the new list, however, the JuD is clearly listed as a banned terrorist group.
The JuD’s inclusion in the new list was apparently done to convince Pakistan’s key interlocutors like the US that it was cracking down on all terror groups in the wake of the attack on an army school in Peshawar in December. At the time, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said Pakistan would act without making a distinction between “good and bad militants”.
An official of Pakistan’s interior ministry, who spoke to Hindustan Times on Monday on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said there were “rumours” about a ban on the JuD but authorities had only placed several groups under observation.
“The latest position is that these groups are on our watch list. There is no truth in reports that they have been banned. If we get confirmation that they are involved in any activities, they can be banned,” the official said.
“If the government decides, they will be notified (as banned groups),” he added.
Around the time of Kerry’s visit to Islamabad in mid-January, several reports in the Pakistani media had suggested the government was moving towards a ban on a dozen groups, including the JuD and the Haqqani Network.
The US State Department even welcomed this development, with deputy spokesperson Marie Harf telling a press briefing on January 15 that Pakistan had plans “to outlaw the Haqqani Network (and) 10 or 11 additional organizations linked to violent extremism”.
“I know this was just an announcement that this is planning to happen. I don’t have more details on when it might,” Harf had said at the time.
Subsequently, however, Pakistani officials and ministers clarified there was no ban on the JuD and only its bank accounts and financial assets had been frozen under the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
Pakistan’s defence production minister Rana Tanveer Hussain even told Hindustan Times in January that the JuD could not be banned because it was a charitable organisation. “We are looking to ban terror organisations but the JuD is a charitable organisation and the government of Pakistan has no evidence against Hafiz Saeed or the JuD,” he said.