Voicing her objection to the Rs82 million given to Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) after it was banned as part of a terrorist purge, former Information Minister and PPP MNA, Sherry Rehman on Friday asked why no one has questioned the grant made by the Punjab government.
Referring to a recent report in the media in which the Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, has actually confessed to making such a provision in the budget for its welfare activities, Sherry Rehman demanded that such grants to banned outfits be stopped forthwith, as welfare activities can be taken over by the Punjab government itself, or handed over to a number of non-extremist organizations who can supplement state capacity in this respect.
“Giving an outright grant to the JuD, when it has been banned, tells us that some elements in the Punjab government are still not committed fully to the idea that jihadist outfits like the LeT, with known leadership and cadre links to the JuD, must be rooted out and that their activities shut down,” said Rehman.
“The country can no longer afford this mollycoddling of terrorists, and Punjab is fast becoming a victim of its own ambiguity. There can be no military operation against terrorists in Punjab, but there must and should be a police sweep, with enough evidence to obtain convictions through our courts,” she added.
“Instead of building police capacity to throw such a dragnet around terrorists, who openly hold rallies in the streets of Lahore and Rawalpindi, we see money being doled out of the tax-payers pockets through the annual budgetary exercise. If this is not pampering a banned outfit, what is?'' asked Rehman.
“We are told that the government appointed an administrator to run these schools and dispensaries two years ago, but by now this infrastructure should have been taken over by the state, instead of allowing a banned organisation to earn support on JuD and LeT branding. And if its only an administrator that is using the funds, why has Rs79 million of this grant gone directly to the Markaz-i- Tayyaba in Muridke which is the JuD headquarters?'' the MNA inquired.
Adding that the federal government should also take note of space being granted to banned outfits through such disbursements and rallies, Rehman said that if we continue on this path, the carnage we saw in various attacks on mosques, non-combatants and minorities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab will only gain strength.
“I want to know if we have abandoned the plan to disable the power of the terrorists operating out of the tribal agencies where the army is running a costly military operation, because by now all the militants have links with each other'', she added.
She said those who cannot escape across an open border with Afghanistan will come down to the Punjab and to Karachi. In fact, they already have. You cannot run a military operation in six tribal agencies and then have extremist ideologies run rampant in other areas.
The Punjab outfits may not have challenged the writ of the state as yet, but in reality they have devolved down to many splinters, with ties to al Qaeda, and they are gaining critical mass, she added.
Instead of reversing their momentum, a part of the government is patronising them. This is both short-sighted and dangerous, and can have serious consequences for both Pakistan, argued Rehman.
She advised the Punjab government to take back this grant and firm up its resolve to combat terrorism by reducing space for banned outfits, and by building governance capacity to administer its own social services or find non-violent partners who can deliver at the grassroots.