ISLAMABAD: Sectarian groups in Pakistan have grown ‘stronger than ever’ and pose a grave threat to state and society, according to an assessment carried out by the country’s intelligence services.
A report of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has warned that organisations such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jundallah are more powerful than in the ‘80s and ‘90s when they wreaked havoc across the country through sectarian attacks.
“Even today they pose a challenge as big as al Qaeda and they are getting more powerful. Imagine where they will be in a couple of years,” said an official who was a member of the IB team that prepared the report.
The report contains information on SSP, LeJ and associated groups and individuals outside Pakistan after monitoring their activities for several months.
Some of the contents of the report were shared with The Express Tribune, which stated that the SSP and LeJ had already extended their network outside their traditional strongholds in South Punjab, southern districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Pakhtun belt of Balochistan, including Quetta.
“Now they are everywhere…from interior Sindh to the base of the Himalayas,” added the official. The SSP and LeJ were among several outfits that were banned by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf back in 2002, but their infrastructure and manpower remained untouched.
“We went into hiding for some years but our system was very much there,” said an activist of SSP, who would give only his last name.
“That is why we are back now…with more force. Allah help us revive,” remarked Maulana Mohavia, who runs a seminary in Tokhar Niaz Baig just outside Lahore.
Amir Rana, director of independent think tank the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) which monitors the rise and fall of such organisations, said such militant outfits had been attracting more manpower after they were joined by international players like al Qaeda in the aftermath of 9/11.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.