The interior ministry has written to all provincial chief secretaries to take action against the militias, established by certain political and religious parties, and the use of uniforms with ranks [on their shoulders] like the country’s armed forces and the law-enforcement agencies (LEAs).
In this regard, a letter has been written to chief secretaries of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K) and chief commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
The letter said it had been observed even by the security agencies that members of such militias wearing uniforms “depict themselves as military organizations, which is a gross violation of Article 256 of the Constitution and point 3 of the National Action Plan”.
The ministry said that if such developments went unchecked, they might aggravate the complex security situation in the country. “The issue also has a negative impact with regard to the national and international image of the country,” added the letter.
The interior ministry said such organizations were setting a wrong precedent for other political and religious parties, who might also resort to similar practices, further compounding the law and order situation.
The ministry directed all provincial governments to “take immediate cognizance of the threat and adopt effective necessary measures to check the functioning and further development of such militias”. The interior secretary offered all help from the federal government to tackle the issue on an urgent basis.
Interior minister’s order is ill-intentioned, says Fazlur Rehman
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Monday said that the interior ministry’s order to take action against religious and political parties’ volunteers is “ill-intentioned.”
“There is a difference between a party’s military wing and its volunteers,” Fazlur Rehman said. “Our volunteers belong to Ansar-ul-Islam, which is the constitutional wing of the JUI, and is registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan.”
The JUI-F chief added that volunteers are part of his party’s protocol, adding that no one had ever objected to the presence of volunteers before.
“In 2001, our volunteers planned thousands of jalsas in the country. At that time, the then home minister had appreciated the arrangements made by our volunteers,” he maintained. “Akin to that, the volunteers of Ansar-ul-Islam performed security duties during our 2017 jalsas.”
Maulana Fazl introduced Ansarul Islam volunteers
Last year, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman started issuing videos showing a large number of Ansarul Islam volunteers marching in the ground and giving a ‘Guard of Honor’ to JUI-F chief just like the army’s special service group presents Guard of Honor to government high-ups during the March 23 parade.
In no time, the parade and ‘salute’ simultaneously turned into scare and joke across social media. The video was considered scary because no political party in Pakistan in the last 70 years has created a militant wing or a militia in uniform for itself. Netizens argued that parties can have baton-carrying or stick-carrying volunteers to fight like Tahirul Qadri’s followers, who clashed with authorities during the 2014’s sit-ins in the federal capital.
However, the idea of putting a militia with the uniform is totally abhorrent to the political parties of Pakistan, to the Pakistani government and to state institutions, said a senior political expert, adding that action against such a move was inevitable and that is what the government has done; banned the outfit.
History of Ansarul Islam
Ansarul Islam is a name and term that has been used by several organizations in the past 100 years. A similar name was used by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind in the early 20th century as a sort of an organization that would resist British imperialism and do Jihad against them. Subsequently, the organization had lost its importance.
The outfit’s name resurfaced in 2004 when followers of an Afghan Sufi preacher, Pir Saifur Rehman, formed Ansarul Islam to counter the Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) formed by Mufti Munir Shakir, a hardline cleric who opposed Sufism. Both the clerics followed two different sects as Rehman preached Brelvi school of thought while Shakir advocated puritanical Deobandi philosophy.
For years, both the outfits remained engaged in propaganda war while declaring each other ‘infidels’. In 2008, the federal government banned outfits. However, they remained functional and kept fighting each other.
On the contrary, there is some evidence that Free Europe and Radio Liberty have been writing pieces that suggested that Ansarul Islam was moderate and less severe and was fighting against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The government’s decision to ban all the uniformed militia is an attempt to make sure that no state within the state operates. Political analysts and security experts lauded the interior ministry for taking this much-needed step.