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AHLE SUNNA WAL JAMAAT BANNED IN PAKISTAN

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Pakistan’s government has issued, on Saturday 03/10/2012, orders banning the country’s largest Islamic extremist group Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat (The Sunna Community and Society) – ASWJ. Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat was first banned in 2002 by then Pakistani leader Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Activists from the pro-Al Qaeda group formerly known as the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP), or Soldiers of the Companions of the Prophet, founded by Maulana Azam Tariq already in the late 90s’, have been convicted of killing hundreds of Shiaa Muslims. Other minorities, security targets and embassies have also been targeted by members of the group.

The group has also recently been in the forefront of an alliance of extremist groups calling for an end to the country’s relationship with the USA, the Defence of Pakistan Council (Difa).

The notification ordering the ban was issued to relevant security departments two weeks ago but no public announcement has yet been made. The interior ministry’s order says the organisation has been banned for what it calls its “concerns in terrorism” (see also – Banned-Fund 06.16.10 ).

But the head of the Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat group, Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi (pic), told the BBC that the group intended to challenge the order in court. “It’s taken us so long so rein in our activists – it will become very difficult to control their emotions if the ban is enforced,” he said.

After the last ban, many of the organisation’s activists went underground and allied themselves with other militant groups to carry out attacks across Pakistan. The SSP has always maintained that these activists joined a splinter faction of the group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

But security officials in Pakistan and beyond maintain that the groups are one and the same. They allege that beneath the guise of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the SSP has been behind most of the major militants attacks in Pakistan, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (see – Bhutto assassination). The group is also said to be responsible for the continuing killing of members of the country’s minority communities, particularly Shiaa, across Pakistan.

Recently, however, the group has attempted a kind of rehabilitation – renaming itself Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat and trying to act like a mainstream political party.

As part of the Defence of Pakistan Council – Difa, it has held rallies in all of the country’s major cities – including Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi – and calling on the government to cut off all ties with the US and the West.

The largest rally was recently held in Karachi. Afterwards, the US State Department called on the Pakistan government to implement bans on such groups, in particular Jumaat-ud-Dawa. It said the group was a front for Lashkar-e-Toiba, which was held responsible for the November 2008 attacks on India’s business capital, Mumbai (see – Mumbai Carnage).

Although the Jamaat-ud-Dawa remains absent from the order, it appears some of the US pressure has paid off. “American and pro-American elements are afraid of the Difa and have orchestrated this ban,” Maulana Ludhianvi said.

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