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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 08:38 GMT
Pakistan enforces ban on militants
Activists clear out office of Sunni group Sipah-e-Sahaba in Peshawar
Radical sectarian groups are among those targeted
By the BBC's Frances Harrison in Islamabad

The authorities in Pakistan have begun enforcing a ban on five militant groups announced by President Pervez Musharraf in a lengthy speech which denounced religious extremism.

Police throughout the country have sealed the offices of both sectarian and Kashmiri organisations that are now banned and have continued to make more arrests.

The crackdown against sectarian groups began before President Musharraf even made his keynote address.

Hundreds of people were rounded up in the southern province of Sindh in advance of a ban on Shia and Sunni groups President Musharraf said were responsible for 400 killings in Pakistan last year alone.

President Musharraf making keynote address
General Musharraf said Pakistan was sick of the "Kalashnikov culture"
In the latest wave of arrests, police said at least 70 activists of the Sunni Muslim group Sipah-e-Sahaba and its Shia rival Tehrik-e-Jafria were rounded up in Sindh province.

But police have moved to seal the offices of not just the sectarian groups, but also those of the banned Kashmiri militant organisations in both Karachi and Lahore.

That will send a strong signal to neighbouring India that President Musharraf intends to match his tough words with action.

India blames the Kashmiri militant groups Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad for an attack on its parliament last month.

President Musharraf's announcement that Pakistani soil would no longer be used for exporting terrorism or holy war was a bold move that has been welcomed by the United States.

Many in Pakistan hope that India will recognise that President Musharraf has gone about as far as he could to meet the demands of the international community on the issue of support for Kashmiri militants without endangering his position at home.

If President Musharraf's broad-reaching programme for reform succeeds, it will mean radical changes for Pakistani society and a new direction for the Kashmir movement.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf on a tightrope
04 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan rounds up militants
21 Dec 01 | Americas
More groups join US terror blacklist
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
India rebuffs evidence request
13 Dec 01 | South Asia
India attack prompts crackdown
14 Dec 01 | South Asia
Violent 'army of the pure'
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Musharraf speech highlights
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