- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2003

From combined dispatches

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan, an ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, yesterday slapped a new ban on three outlawed Islamic militant organizations that had regrouped under new names.

The ban came two days after the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan voiced concerns over the re-emergence of the militant groups.

“No militant or sectarian organization will be allowed to function in Pakistan,” said an official statement reported by state-run APP news agency.

The decision to ban the three — a militant group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region and two organizations involved in domestic sectarian violence — came at a meeting attended by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali.

Gen. Musharraf vowed to continue the battle against terrorism, religious extremism and sectarianism.

“We are all Muslims, but no one has the right to claim that he is a better Muslim than others,” he said.

“Those who are indulging in extremist acts are … harming both Pakistan and Islam,” Gen. Musharraf told Cabinet ministers.

Last year, Gen. Musharraf banned five militant groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament on December 13 of the same year.

The new orders banned Khudam-ul Islam, formerly Jaish-e-Mohammed, and outlawed radical Sunni Muslim Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and rival Shi’ite Muslim Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan groups that have also regrouped under new names.

Shortly after the decision, police sealed several offices of Khudam-ul Islam in the southern port city of Karachi, which has seen a string of attacks by suspected Islamic militants over the past two years.

Group officials said police had also raided the house of their leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, in Bahawalpur city, in central Punjab province. They said he was not home at the time of raid.

Mr. Azhar was one of the three men released from an Indian prison in a deal with New Delhi after an Indian airliner was hijacked in late 1999 and flown to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

“We don’t know on whose behest they are taking these steps. … We are neither involved in the war in Iraq nor in the September 11 attacks,” Khudam-ul Islam’s spokesman Hasan Barki said. He denounced the ban.

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