Pakistan Thursday banned the Haqqani Network, a leading element of the Afghan Taliban, as well as an Islamic foundation, amid a clampdown on Islamist militants.

Afghan Taliban
Afghan Taliban

The move comes as Pakistan is changing its stance against militants groups involved in the Afghan conflict, some of which have historic links with parts of the country’s government and military.

“Immediate steps” would be taken against the Haqqani group and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, both on the UN terrorist list, to “include freezing of their assets and accounts,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

The Haqqani Network has been based in the north-western tribal regions for years, launching attacks over the border in Afghanistan.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa is allegedly a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attack in India, and has in the past been linked to Pakistani intelligence services.

The ban is part of a shift in Pakistan’s security policy towards Afghanistan, which follows a change in the government in the neighbouring country as well as intense exchanges between diplomatic, political and military leaders in Islamabad, Kabul and Washington.

The ban would have little immediate impact on the treatment of the Haqqani Network, said Irfan Shahzad, an Islamabad-based analyst, as the military has been pounding their strongholds since June.

Nearly 1,500 Taliban fighters have been killed in months of airstrikes and ground attacks against militants linked with al-Qaeda in the tribal regions.

The operations were intensified after militants stormed an army-run school in the north-western city of Peshawar on December 16, killing 136 children.

“That was the tipping point,” Shahzad said. “Everyone seems to have realized the policy of using militants as proxy [against traditional foreign enemies] is not going to work anymore.”

But beyond the battlefield, Thursday’s ban had “a very significant symbolism,” he said.


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