The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) on Wednesday issued a notification to lift the ban on Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and unfreeze the assets of its chief Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, the Express Tribune reported.
The notification was issued on the recommendations of the Punjab province home department, the paper said.
Ludhianvi is the chief of ASWJ, a banned sectarian extremist group, formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba. He became the group’s chief after the killing of his predecessor Ali Sher Haidri in a 2009 ambush.
In 1990s, the Sipah-e-Sahaba was actively involved in a number of high profile attacks on scholars, mosques and gatherings of the minority Shia community. The groups was banned by the military dictator General Pervez Musharraf in 2002. The group reemerged under the name of ASWJ.
The removal of the ban on the group comes as a surprise amid international pressure on Pakistan to dismantle terror sanctuaries on its soil.
Interestingly, the decision was made the same day Pakistan had committed to an ambitious 26-point action plan spanning a period of 15 months to avoid being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force, the paper said.
The plan envisages choking the financing of terrorist groups like ISIS, Haqqani network, Jamaat-ud Dawa and its affiliate FIF, LeT, JeM and persons affiliated with the Taliban.
Ludhianvi, who is also the Joint Secretary of Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) whose central leadership includes Mumbai attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, is now allowed to operate his bank accounts.
“He is also free to travel abroad as a ban on his movement has been lifted after this notification. He is also allowed to avail purchase and carry arms after securing licence from the competent authority,” the paper said.
The computerised national identity card of Ludhianvi, who had been put on the Fourth Schedule, has also been unblocked and he is allowed to use it for sale and purchase of movable and immovable properties, it added.
The Fourth Schedule is a section of the Anti-Terrorism Act under which someone who is suspected of terrorism is kept under observation and it is mandatory for him or her to register his or her attendance with the local police regularly.
A prominent ASWJ leader, Aurangzeb Farooqui, is contesting on a provincial as well as a National Assembly seat from Karachi in the July 25 elections.