ISLAMABAD • Pakistan intensified its crackdown against Islamist militants yesterday, with the government announcing it had taken control of 182 religious schools and detained more than 100 people as part of its push against banned groups.
This represents Pakistan's biggest move against banned organisations in years and appears to be targeting Islamic welfare organisations that the United States says are a front for militant activities.
Pakistan is facing pressure from global powers to act against groups carrying out attacks in India, including Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which claimed responsibility for the Feb 14 attack that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police.
The escalating tension in the wake of the bombing led to a major confrontation between the nuclear-armed rivals, with both countries carrying out aerial bombing missions and even engaging in a brief dogfight that prompted fears of a war.
Pakistan's Interior Ministry said yesterday law enforcement agencies had placed 121 people in "preventive detention" as part of the crackdown that began this week.
"Provincial governments have taken in their control management and administration of 182 seminaries (madaris)", the ministry said in a statement, referring to religious schools.
The interior ministry said other institutions from different groups had been taken over, including 34 schools or colleges, 163 dispensaries, 184 ambulances, five hospitals and eight offices of banned organisations.
Many banned groups such as JeM run seminaries, which counter-terrorism officials say are used as recruiting grounds for militant outfits. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which operates hospitals and a fleet of ambulances, is estimated to run about 300 madrasahs across the country. Pakistan's government banned the group this week.