09/26/2017, 17.15
PAKISTAN
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As an Islamic State flag is found in Islamabad, government is accused of ineffectiveness

by Kamran Chaudhry

Police removed a slogan under a billboard praising the Islamic Caliphate. Pakistani authorities have always denied the presence of the Islamic State group in the country. But for years, the terrorist programme has been taught in school. Religious parties make gains in by-election.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Police in Islamabad removed a flag praising the Islamic state found on a billboard.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Christian and Muslim activists complained about the government's weak response to Islamic terrorism.

They note that Pakistani authorities have so far always denied the presence of sympathisers and supporters of the Caliphate, turning a blind eye to what is obvious to everyone, namely that Islamic terrorism exists in Pakistan and is widespread, starting in schools.

The ‘Khilafat is coming’ was written under the flag that was removed. The slogan is throwback to a pan-Islamic campaign launched among Indian Muslims during the First World War in favour of the Ottoman Empire.

Police have filed a case against person or persons unknown under a law that bans the display of signs, symbols, flags, or banners of outlawed organisations.

Activists, however, have criticised the government for the ineffectiveness of the National Action Plan it launched in the aftermath of the Taliban massacre at the Peshawar military school in December 2014.

The purpose of the plan was to curb extremism in society. Unfortunately, as human rights advocates have pointed out, Pakistani society has been extremist for years. A video on Youtube of female students from the Jamia Hafsa madrassa (school), near Islamabad’s Lal Masjid (mosque) is evidence of that.

The video, shot a month before the Peshawar massacre, shows schoolgirls pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Samson Salamat, a Christian who heads the Rwadari Tehreek Movement, points the finger at the inaction of security agencies. "The government and state institutions are either sleeping or making fools of nation. RIP, Rest in Peace, National Action Plan."

"Even before Daesh made its appearance in the country, its programme had already entered into modern educational institutions,” he added. Daesh is the Arabic acronym of Islamic State.

In recent years, leaflets and plans of militant organisations have been discovered throughout the country, and yet the government continues to deny Daesh’s presence. The authorities only admit to the presence of al-Qaeda-connected Taliban.

Jibran Nasir, a Muslim activist and blogger, tweeted that "Nisar (former interior minister) refused to register case against [Maulana] Abdul Aziz”, head of the (Jamia Hafsa) madrassa.

Romana Bashir, a Christian and the executive director of the Peace and Development Foundation (PDF), believes that the removal of the IS flag is a good thing.

“The state must discourage such elements and stop them from gaining more space,” she said. “However, we are not shocked. Daesh uses religious references and is full of sympathisers in the country. Everybody knows. Instead of being properly educated, people are being exploited emotionally. Banned parties are taking part in the elections."

The reference is to a by-election on 17 September to replace former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, won by his wife Kulsoom.

The candidate for Tehreek Labbaik Pakistani, who supported Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, came in third place. The Milli Muslim League, created by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group banned by the United Nations, came in fourth.

"Religious parties are getting politically empowered,” Bashir said. “The results of the recent elections are a litmus test."

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