A representative from Jhang has told the National Assembly that the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) is active once again in his area. He has warned that this could result in a re-emergence of the frenzied sectarian violence we saw in the 1990s, resulting in hundreds of deaths and many target-killings of key figures. It is also ominous that the SSP apparently has through the years remained entirely unaffected by the ban placed on it and has indeed been able to keep its organisational structure intact. The same representative from the birthplace of the SSP stated that around 20 activists of the group arrested in the town for involvement in illegal activities had been released late July, and these people had then been involved in the Gojra incident. If this account is accurate – and we have no reason to believe it is not – the disaster in that town could have been averted.
The ban placed on over a dozen groups over the last decade needs to be re-visited and an assessment made of just how effective it has been. According to the information available, some of the groups have re-surfaced under new names. Others have simply continued to function underground. There has also been a process of splintering, and this indeed means the situation is even more chaotic than before, making it harder to know which group operates from where and who heads it. The evidence put forward from Jhang points to possible links once again with the police. It is also possible that fear prevents this force from acting against the SSP. Whatever the truth is it needs to be understood and steps taken to eliminate such militant forces. We live today in a society within which violence and hatred have seeped in deep and exist almost everywhere. It has now been proven that simply banning groups brings little reward, particularly when such bans are not properly enforced. The government must show it is willing to devise a strategy to tackle the issue. Simply bombing militant targets is not enough. Even bigger challenges lie ahead. There is no time for complacency. The government must demonstrate it is up to the task and able to take apt action that can ward off the dangers we face.
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Thursday, 13 August 2009