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Interior Ministry Seeks Action Against ‘Armed Wings’ of Organizations

by Newsweek Pakistan

Uniformed volunteers at a JUIF rally. Courtesy JUIF

Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman claims orders are ‘ill-intentioned’

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry on Monday directed provincial governments to take measures against “armed wings” of political and religious parties to forestall any potentially adverse security situation.

In a letter issued to all provinces, the Interior Ministry claimed that various political and religious parties had formed private militias, adding that these included members wearing uniforms similar to those of the armed forces. It said that these militias, and their misleading uniforms, were in violation of Article 256 of the Constitution and the third point of the National Action Plan against terrorism.

Article 256 of the Constitution bans private armies, adding that any private organization capable of functioning as a military organization would be illegal. Similarly, the third point of the National Action Plan says that militant outfits and armed gangs would not be allowed to operate in the country.

According to the letter, the government fears that the security situation might deteriorate if action is not taken against such groups, adding that they were setting a wrong example and projecting a negative image of the country.

The Interior Ministry also directed the provincial governments to take immediate notice of the situation, adding that the federal government was ready to offer all possible assistance in this matter.

Maulana reacts

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the Interior Ministry’s order was “ill-intentioned.” He told media that the government should differentiate between the “military wing” of a political or religious party and volunteers who offer aid as required.

“Our volunteers belong to Ansarul Islam, which is the constitutional wing of the JUI, and is registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he said, adding that such volunteers are part of his personal and party protocol. He said no one had ever objected to their presence before, rather, they had been praised for their discipline.

“In 2001, our volunteers planned thousands of rallies nationwide. The then-interior minister appreciated the arrangements made by them,” he said, adding that Ansarul Islam volunteers had served as security during the 2017 rallies.

“Such letters are written only to exert political pressure,” he told daily The News.

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