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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 12:35 GMT
Pakistan bans more Islamic groups
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC correspondent in Islamabad

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Three more Islamic groups in Pakistan have been banned for involvement in extremist politics and spreading religious hatred.

Members of one of the groups, Jamiat-ul Furqan, have been linked to last year's murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.

This is the second such ban in less than a week - on Saturday three illegal organisations that had changed their names were banned again.

Officials have hinted that more Islamic groups will be banned soon.

No reason given

The other two groups banned on Thursday are:

  • Hizbul Tehreer, a pan-Islamic organisation which has branches in the United Kingdom and other countries
  • A little-known group, Jamiat-ul Ansar.

The government has not given any specific reason for banning these Islamic groups.

An interior ministry statement said the action has been taken under the country's anti-terrorism law.

Officials say the latest move is part of the continuing crackdown against the organisations that are found to be involved in preaching armed militancy or spreading religious hatred.

These officials say the government has decided to root out terrorism from the country and have hinted at the possibility of imposing curbs on more Islamic groups in the next few weeks.

But unlike last year, when more than 1,500 supporters of extremist groups were rounded up and then later released, the authorities have decided against any large scale arrests this time.

Instead, about 600 members of the banned groups have been asked to furnish surety bonds of good conduct in order to avoid arrest.

It is not clear how many of them have agreed to submit such a bond - it involves raising surety money of a 100,000 rupees ($1.700).

An alliance of the country's six prominent Islamic parties, the MMA, has strongly condemned the ban.

The MMA has accused the government of acting under pressure from the United States.

Although the American ambassador to Pakistan, Nancy Powell, has denied such reports, she has welcomed the move to curb the activities of these Islamic groups.

Zaffar Abbas reports
"There is a possibility that after a few months some of these groups may resurface to operate under new names"

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