Less than 24 hours after the UN Security Council’s condemnation statement of the February 14 terrorist attack in Pulwama, the Pakistan government moved in to take control of a mosque-and-seminary complex in Bahawalpur. This complex, said Dawn, is believed to be the headquarters of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
Pakistan’s Information Department (PID) tweeted on Friday: “The Government of Punjab has taken over the control of a campus comprising Madressatul Sabir and Jama-e-Masjid Subhanallah in Bahawalpur: Spokesman of the Ministry of Interior”. “The Spokesman said that the action was taken in line with the decision of the National Security Committee meeting held yesterday under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” the PID, which is the official public relations wing of the Pakistan government, tweeted.
Punjab police has taken over security of the campus, the spokesperson was quoted by Pakistan’s media. The campus has a 70-strong faculty and more than 650 students.
Watch: What is Jaish-e-Mohammed, the terror group that attacked the CRPF convoy
This isn’t the first time that Islamabad has cracked down on Jaish. After the Pathankot attack in January 2016, Pakistan had arrested some members but it was largely cosmetic.
Optics to lower the heat
Jaish’s been banned by the UN since 2002 after the Parliament attack. India has given dossiers on the need to book Jaish. Friday’s action by Pak is more to lower the heat. What Delhi is waiting for is a visible and verifiable crackdown against Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar.
Government sources in Delhi said that it was too early to gauge the seriousness of Pakistan’s intent. “Such measures have been taken in the past, we will need to verify their impact.” Indeed, later tonight, Islamabad downplayed the crackdown.
Dawn reported Friday night that a subsequent statement issued by the Interior Ministry explained that the facility is “purely a madrassah and Jamia Masjid (central mosque) where scores of orphans and students from underprivileged families are receiving religious and worldly education”.
Quoting the spokesperson’s statement, Dawn said that Bahawalpur Deputy Commissioner Shozaib Saeed and Bahawalpur SP Saleem Niazi had paid a “surprise visit” to the campus and surveyed its buildings and facilities.
According to the statement, the complex provides education until Grade 6 and following their secondary and intermediate schooling, students get Bachelor’s and Master’s level education.
A large number of Bahawalpur residents bear its expenses through charity and provide its pupils with rice and grain at no cost. “The Special Branch (of police), Counter-Terrorism Department and other departments carry out a formal scrutiny of this and other madrassahs on a monthly basis,” the ministry’s statement said, according to Dawn.
It said that starting today, the Punjab government has taken over the management of the Bahawalpur institution as a “preventive measure”. This came on a day Pakistan’s Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said, during a visit to the Line of Control, that though Pakistan is a peace loving country, it will not be intimidated and any misadventure will be given a befitting response, said a statement issued by Pakistan Army.
Meanwhile, the Financial Action Task Force, the global terrorist financing watchdog, continued to put Pakistan on the grey list, and asked it to fulfill its commitments by May this year — or else, process for blacklisting can begin.
On Thursday, Pakistan had decided to “accelerate action against proscribed organisations” and reinstated a ban on 26/11 mastermind and UN-proscribed terrorist Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its surrogate, the Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).