ISLAMABAD: Rejecting findings of the commission that castigated the interior ministry for its delays in proscribing militant groups in its report on August 8 Quetta attack, the ministry has told the apex court that proscribing any organisation cannot be a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction and requires due diligence.
In its 64-page response to the Quetta Inquiry Commission’s (QIC) report compiled by Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the ministry said if an organisation is proscribed on the basis of claims of the said outfit’s spokespersons on social media or their letters to media houses, then there is a ‘real danger’ of the government being diverted from pursuing the actual perpetrators.
“It is due to this reason that the intelligence agencies take their time in arriving at conclusions after a thorough consideration,” said the interior ministry in its reply submitted before the Supreme Court on Friday through its counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan.
The commission – formed to probe the massacre in which dozens of lawyers were killed – had said there was a ‘monumental failure’ on part of the Interior Ministry to combat terrorism and perform basic protocols. It had highlighted the ministry’s ‘reluctance’ to take action against terror outfits and delays on its part to proscribe militant outfits.
The ministry expressed apprehension that a hasty decision to ban any organisation will violate the law, in particular section 11-B of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.
“This will give rise to unnecessary litigation and further add to the burden of the courts. The findings of the QIC report that Nacta’s [National Counter Terrorism Authority’s] act of seeking input from the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] and the IB [Intelligence Bureau] is ‘illogical’, is flawed,” it said.
It said the Interior Ministry requires information received from a ‘credible source’ to proscribe an organisation, as required by section 11-B of the ATA 1997. “Such information may be received from government and regulatory authorities (domestic or foreign), law-enforcement agencies, financial/intelligence units, banks, non-banking companies and international institutions.”
The ministry said the government starts process of proscription whenever a reference is received.
“The reference is sent to intelligence agencies. This is essential because the ministry has no direct/first-hand source of information about the outfits concerned and cannot of its own verify the information received,” it said.
The reply said it is not the minister who has to issue the notification in person for proscription. Rather, it is the ministry, which must do so, after following the required procedure.
“The summary for proscription of Jamatul Ahrar was received by the minister [Nisar] on Nov 11, 2016 and he approved the summary on the same day, ie, almost immediately.
“The whole process of proscription took 3 months, which is normal given the process that has to be exercised. It is a matter of record that to proscribe some of the organisations, the previous administrations took well over a year,” it said.
The ministry contended that there is also no basis for the finding in the report that the ministry is more interested in serving the minister than the people of Pakistan. This observation has been made without any evidence, it claimed.
The reply contended that the commission made observations against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan based on media reports and he was not given proper opportunity of hearing.
Regarding the commission’s findings about Nisar’s meeting with Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) chief Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, the ministry said that the ATA 1997 does not restrain public functionaries to meet persons on 4th schedule if they seek such meeting to present their lawful grievances, adding that Nisar did not ‘cavort’ with any such individuals
The reply said the ASWJ was proscribed on February 15, 2012; therefore, it cannot be assumed that Ludhianvi is a leader of the defunct ASWJ. It contended that it is not required under the ATA to individually proscribe or prosecute each leader of a proscribed outfit without a specific charge against him.
It said the minister was not scheduled to meet with a delegation of the ASWJ but a delegation of the Difa Pakistan Council (DPC), which is not a proscribed organisation. The minister was unaware that Ludhianvi would accompany the delegation members and had no prior notice of his arrival, it claimed.
Highlighting its achievements, the ministry said Rs79.6 billion had been spent on establishing 59 units/posts of civil armed forces for strengthening the security, especially of the western borders. These posts will be operational in the current year. Nacta is also now maintaining and regularly updating a data bank of the proscribed organizations.
The ministry said it has shared the list of such organisations with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra), the Federal Investigation Agency, the ISI and the IB for imposing sanctions in accordance with the provision of the ATA 1997.
It said the SBP has intimated that 5,023 bank accounts relating to individuals (listed in Schedule IV of the ATA, 1997) and 8 bank accounts of proscribed organisations have been frozen.
“The SBP, the ministry and minister are further constrained in their actions due to the judgment of the Hon’ble High Court dated 04.08.2003 passed in CP No. 583/2001. This was not set aside in appeal by this Hon’ble Court,” it says.
It says Nacta started developing counter narrative in May 2016. Formulation of national narrative is a complex phenomenon, which has to incorporate the diverse, pluralistic nature of religious aspiration and ethnic sensitivities of the society. It is a time consuming exercise.
1,365 cases have been registered in hate speech material cases and 2,460 persons were arrested. While 15,479 cases of misuse of loudspeakers cases have been registered and 15,998 persons were arrested and 4,387 equipment confiscated.
It said findings of the commission are beyond the scope of its terms of reference, adding that these findings, and all adverse remarks being unnecessary for fact-finding of the Quetta incidents, may be expunged.
“These adverse remarks and observations are without any evidentiary basis. They not only deny the Fundamental Rights of those affected but also have an adverse effect on the morale of the persons involved. War on terrorism is a national war. It requires unity amongst all institutions of the State.
“It is prayed that the adverse observations and findings of the commission in respect of the ministry and the minister are, with the greatest respect, unnecessary, uncalled for and violative of natural justice,” it said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2017.