US Report Acknowledges Pak Restrictions on Extremists

WASHINGTON: The Pakistan government bans the activities of, and membership in, several religiously oriented groups it judges to be “extremist” or “terrorist”, says a US report released on Wednesday.

But the State Department’s report on religious freedom also says that “many banned groups remain active, and some avoid the law by changing their names once banned”.

The report, released in Washington by Secretary of State John Kerry, notes that the law allows the government to use special streamlined courts to try cases involving violent crimes, terrorist activities, and acts or speech deemed to foment religious hatred, including blasphemy cases.

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The report alleges that a small number of madressahs in Pakistan have taught “violent extremist doctrine in support of terrorism”.

It points that the law requires all madressahs to register with one of five wafaqs or directly with the government, to cease accepting foreign financing, and to accept foreign students only with the consent of their governments. The government officially categorizes most madressahs as “non-extremist institutions”.

According to the report, on July 11, 2014, Islamabad’s Anti-terrorism Court ordered the continued detention of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants Hammad Adil and Muhammad Tanveer. The men allegedly confessed, after their arrests in August 2013, to the 2011 assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, a federal minister of minority affairs and an outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws.

Adil and Tanveer were the main suspects accused in the murder. Their trial was ongoing at year’s end.

Published in Dawn, October 15th , 2015

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