Aiming to weaken the next week's mega protest, Pakistan has banned a little known organisation affiliated with Fazl-ur Rehman-led JUI-F which has planned the sit-in against the Imran Khan government alleging poll rigging. The Ministry of Interior on Thursday issued a notification banning Ansarul Islam, saying the outfit was "capable of functioning as a military organisation".
The Azadi March in Islamabad on October 31 will be led by Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazl. All major opposition parties including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Peoples Party of former president Asif Ali Zardari have announced their support.
Fazl has demanded Imran Khan's resignation, alleging that the election held on July 2018 was rigged to help his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. According to the notification, "the federal government through the ministry of interior entrust the provincial governments the power to take appropriate actions under Section 2 of the Private Military Organisations (Abolition and Prohibition) Act, 1974 against Ansarul Islam."
The group came to prominence after it recently held military-style parades and offered a salute to Fazl on the pattern of the guard of honour given to the head of state. The exact number of followers of the group is not known but they must be in tens of thousands, according to government sources. The members often carry large sticks (lathis or batons) and provide security to the meetings of the JUI-F. There is no record of involvement of the group in any terrorist activity.
Imran Khan on October 23 said that he will not resign under pressure from the opposition. On the other hand, the opposition plans to stage a protest against the Government named 'Azadi March' later this month. Media reports cite Imran Khan as saying that he senses a hidden agenda working behind the protests. Pakistan Government on October 23 reportedly decided to let the opposition's 'Azadi March' protest in Islamabad proceed as long as parameters laid out by courts for lawful protest are not breached.
"There is no question of my resignation and I will not resign. Dharna is agenda-based, and it has foreign support. I don't understand what Maulana's problem is. I don't understand the agenda of the opposition, " Khan said at a meeting with senior journalists and analysts.
While Pakistan has been actively choking dissent, the country's affability with designated terrorists have been put up on global display. In September, Pakistan reached out to the UN Security Council with a plea to allow UN-designated terrorist and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed to access his bank account to cover 'basic living expenses.'
"His bank account was blocked by the Government of Pakistan under compliance with UN Security Council resolution 1267, requesting an asset freeze exemption to access frozen funds in the amount of Rs 1.5 lakh (USD 1000 or INR 68,000) to cover the necessary basic living expenses for himself and his family," Pakistan’s request to the UN Security Council panel said.
(With PTI inputs)