No ban on Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat

|Express Tribune|

LAHORE: The Difa-e-Pakistan Council has said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik has personally refuted a BBC report that claimed the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) has been declared a banned outfit in Pakistan.

“Interior Minister Rehman Malik refuted the reports of ban on Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat over the phone with me,” Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, Chairman Pakistan Ulema Council and leading member of the Defense Pakistan Council told The Express Tribune. Ashrafi said that he spoke with the Interior Minister because ASWJ is a member of the DPC.

“I spoke with him in detail two nights ago” Ashrafi said, adding that Malik assured him that an investigation into this matter would be conducted. Quoting the interior minister, Ashrafi said that Malik did not know anything about the reported ban.

“Rehman Malik said that his office had not issued any such notification and that he was away in Gilgit and only found out about ban reports in the media on his return”.

Ashrafi added that “We are grateful to Rehman Malik for issuing a timely explanation, although we have always criticized him but in this case we should give him credit for this clarification.”

Was there a notification?

Sources in the Interior Ministry while talking to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity confirmed the existence of a notification for the ban on ASWJ for involvement in anti-state, terrorist activities and sectarian violence.

An official of the interior Ministry familiar with the matter said that this notification had been issued in the third week of February, 2012 on the basis of intelligence agency reports revealing the involvement of ASWJ in terrorism activities and sectarian violence.

Ubaidulah Usmani, the Media Coordinator ASWJ also confirmed the existence of such a notification but he said the notification had been prepared for barring the entry and participation of ASWJ Chief Allama Ahmad Ludhianvi in an Islamabad protest under the banner of Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC). He claimed that this notification was to be used if Ludhianvi had participated in the protest.

Lifting ban on Sipah-e-Sahaba

The ASWJ have also been working towards a lift of the ban on Sipah-e-Sahaba, the proscribed outfit that the ASWJ claims as their own.

“We were from the Sipah-e-Sahaba, and we only changed the organization’s name when General Musharraf banned us” said Allama Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, chief of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat.

Speaking to The Express Tribune via phone from Jhang, Ludhianvi said “We changed the name of the organization out of respect for the law. Our real organization is actually Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan.”

“When Musharraf banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, Azam Tariq the former chief named the organization Millat-e-Islamia, which was banned as well, so when Maulana Azam Tariq died, Allama Ludhianvi the next chief started Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat,”  Younas Qasmi secretary of Ludhianvi added.

Ludhianvi explained that, “The interior Minister has said that the government is ready for dialogue with those who are not extremist, so we think that our side of the story should be heard.”

Ludhianvi told the The Express Tribune that his organization challenged the government’s decision to declare SSP proscribed in the high court, and that case is still pending.

These statements come after a report by the BBC, published a notification by the Interior Ministry declaring the ASWJ as a proscribed organization. The ASWJ chief Allama Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi rejected the ban and said such measures if taken would be on the directives of the US.

Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, along with Ludhianvi of the ASWJ received co-founder of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi  responsible for sectarian terrorism across Pakistan, from the Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore in 2011. Ashrafi has spoken publicly in favor of Malik Ishaq as well.

Meanwhile, the ASWJ are preparing to participate in the DPC rallies in Peshawar on April 15 and in Quetta on April 26.

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