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Top Pakistan Court Wants Government To Reveal Banned Militant Groups

Pakistan's Supreme Court
Pakistan's Supreme Court

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has asked the government to publicize the names of all of the militant groups it has outlawed for their roles in the violence that has killed more than 50,000 Pakistanis during the past decade.

In a hearing late on January 22, the Supreme Court observed that several organizations continue to operate in the country, and some even continue to collect donations, but that Pakistanis have no information regarding the groups' legal status.

"If the public doesn't know about the outfits involved in terrorism and antiterrorism laws, then how can we expect them to contribute to the struggle against terrorism?" said Pakistani Supreme Court Justice Jawad Khawaja.

He ordered the government to make available detailed information about dozens of militant organizations on the websites of the Interior Ministry and the National Counter Terrorism Authority, and also to share such details with neighboring countries.

The court called on the government to first focus on providing accurate information to journalists and asked authorities to translate the list into Urdu and other languages spoken in the country of nearly 200 million people.

Mushtaq Yousafzai, a Peshawar-based journalist, welcomes the move. "This is important because it will help us to inform our audiences better," he said.

The court’s observations came the same day that Pakistan’s foreign office accepted Islamabad's "obligation" of banning any outfit listed by the UN sanctions committee but stopped short of sharing details when asked about Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Haqqani network ─ two long-time allied Islamist militant groups active in India and Afghanistan.

"Jamaat-ud-Dawa and other organizations are listed by the United Nations’ sanction committee, and because Pakistan is a member of the United Nations, it automatically incurs obligations to take action against [those] entities and individuals," Pakistani foreign office spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam told journalists.

The two organizations are prominent among a number of Islamist militant factions that Islamabad had sponsored to fight in neighboring Afghanistan and India during the past three decades. In addition, several sectarian and separatist groups also operate in the country.

Pakistani politicians and military leaders announced new counterterrorism measures after the massacre of 150 students and teachers in a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on December 16. The hardline group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.

Islamabad’s new 20-point National Action Plan against terrorism calls for a complete ban on "armed militias," but there is no clarity on which specific groups have been banned.

Pakistani media recently reported that Islamabad intended to ban 90 groups, but their names and the details of their activity have yet to be made public.