ISLAMABAD -  Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan Monday clarified his earlier public statement over the issue of dealing with proscribed sectarian outfits.

“I have never argued that there should be leniency towards the outlawed sectarian organisations and I am answerable if my argument gives rise to such suspicions,” Nisar said while responding to a debate in the house over his earlier statement.

On January 10, he said proscribed sectarian organisations should not be equated with those of outlawed terrorist outfits. He was responding to the criticism over his meeting with a delegation of banned outfit heads.

The minister, while responding a motion of 15 opposition senators, regretted that different interpretations were made of his statement outside the house instead of seeking clarification from him. Nisar explained that there were weak laws in the country to govern proscribed sectarian organisations.

“Proscribed terrorist organisations and their members are not allowed to operate in Pakistan,” he said, adding that no headquarters of any terrorist organisation existed in the country after ‘post-Zarb-e-Azb Operation’ and if anyone knew he should bring it to the notice of the government.

But, he added that when a sectarian organisation is proscribed, there is no bar on their leaders or workers to meet with government officers, holding public rallies or even contesting elections. Only bar is for those against whom cases are registered, he said.

He went on to say: “Actually, the government has no proof against a number of their members in black and white but intelligence agencies have report that they have links.  I had asked for an amendment in the law to oversee activities of all such members of proscribed sectarian organisations.”

Quoting an example, he said that even there were no cases against the leadership of such outfits.

About his meeting with leader of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, he again alleged that some leaders of the PPP also used to hold meetings with him.

“I have photographs of his meeting with the former president ( Asif Ali Zardari) ,” Nisar said, adding that no one raised hue and cry at that time.

He said that Ludhianvi contested elections on National Assembly seat but no one barred him from doing so.   “I have asked the ministry and the NACTA to introduce new law so that noose could be tightened around both banned terror and sectarian organisations,” the interior minister said.

He said there were other weaknesses in the previous law of the ATA 1997 as well.

“The ministry has to send an intimation letter to the address of any terror organisation within three days of its proscription. But you know terror organizations have no addresses,” he said.

The minister, while giving credit to his government for imposing strict restrictions on the movement and operations of the proscribed organisation, said that no one new in the past how many these were?

He asked his political opponents to avoid point scoring. Some have been trying to score points on the accusation that army is taking every action and where is the civilian government, the minister said.

“This is part of record that the federal government took all decisions whether it be announcement of National Internal Security Policy (NISP), dialogue process with the militants, Operation Zarb-e-Azb or Operation Raadul Fasad,” he said.  Nisar added that the interior ministry had basic role in these.

He gave credit to the armed forces, police, other civil armed forces and even media for improvement in the security situation of the country.

Before the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the attacks were engineered in Pakistan but no one ever took action, he lashed out at his political opponent – the PPP.

But all such networks had been eliminated and now these operate across the border only.

“We have arrested thousands of facilitators and helpers of these networks across the country.  We should move ahead with this unfinished agenda of terrorism as this is a shared responsibility and there should not be any politics on security,” he concluded.

Earlier, the opposition senators called for tackling the facilitators of terrorists and sought an in-camera briefing on the issue. PPP Senator Sehar Kamran, moving the motion in the house, said that action should be taken indiscriminately.

She alleged the National Action Plan (NAP) was being implemented selectively and called for strong action against sectarian groups.

“There must be no good or bad sectarian terrorists and if the government has banned certain outfits, then indeed, there will be a collective wisdom behind it, how can they be spared,” said MQM lawmaker Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, while taking part in the debate. Another MQM legislator Maulana Tanvirul Haq Thanvi said that the facilitators of terrorists had been found in the elite class at every level of government and they must be traced and taken to task.

MQM Senator Ateeq Shaikh said that a BJP leader had brought a resolution in Indian legislature for reserving seats for Gilgit-Baltistan and asked should not he bring a resolution for reserving seats in the Parliament for states of Junagarh, Hyderabad and Indian Occupied Kashmir. Senator Abdul Qayyum of PML-N supported the idea of dealing with terrorists and sectarian militants differently.