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Popular support for militants complicates Pakistan crackdown

Many of the groups are popular among the poor because they operate networks of charities. Some have also enjoyed the support of the military and intelligence services, reports Reuters news agency.

. Current Affairs Digest by Dr Safdar Mahmood

On the congested streets of Bahawalpur, a city in southern Pakistan's jihadi heartland, emotions run high in favor of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a U.N.-designated terror group that recently pushed nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

Such support complicates Prime Minister Imran Khan's latest crackdown on militant groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed. In recent days, Khan has ordered the takeover of assets and property of dozens of banned militant organizations that operate in Pakistan.

 

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 "Jaish-e-Mohammad is not a terrorist group, they just want to spread Islam," said Tahir Zia, a gray-bearded shopkeeper in Bahawalpur, a city whose 18th-century founders claim to be direct descendants of Islam's Prophet Mohammad.

 

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According to Pakistan's counter-terrorism agency, the government has outlawed 68 militant groups. This includes Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lahskar-e-Taiba and Harakat-ul Mujahedeen Pakistan-based groups that seek to wrest control of Indian-administered territory in the disputed Kashmir region.

Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety. The region has been the flash point of two wars between the South Asian neighbours as well as several lower-level face-offs.

 

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The latest confrontation began Feb. 14, when a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed 40 Indian soldiers. Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility, even though the attacker was identified as an Indian Kashmiri militant. The bombing escalated tensions between India and Pakistan, with India launching an airstrike against suspected militant training camps inside Pakistan. Journalists, who visited the site hours after the bombing, said the area was a deserted forested hilltop.

Posted on March 9, 2019

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